Donald’s big day in court: Three lawsuits challenge Trump’s travel ban
With hearings scheduled for at least three legal challenges to Donald Trump’s revised immigration ban, his administration faces one of its biggest days in court yet on Wednesday.
The revised executive order, issued March 6 and set to take effect Thursday, attempts to address the constitutional concerns that got the original immigration ban halted nationwide by a Washington judge. The order, however, still achieves the main policy outcomes of the first ban — Trump’s officials even said so themselves. This time, nationals from six majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan — cannot receive new visas for 90 days, while refugee resettlement from those places is stopped for 120 days.
While the lawsuits being heard Wednesday stem from different states and organizations with varying arguments, any one of them could potentially halt parts of Trump’s policy for the entire country, just one day before it’s supposed to go into effect.
When: 9:30 a.m. ET
Where: U.S. District Court of Maryland
What: With the help of the ACLU and National Immigration Law Center, two refugee organizations have challenged Trump’s executive order on the grounds that it’s discriminatory and violates a rule that requires refugee quotas to be set in advance. Trump’s order caps the total number of refugees the U.S. will accept this year at 50,000, less than half the 110,000 that were originally planned by the Obama administration.
Potential result: If a judge grants the injunction, the whole executive order could be temporarily halted.
Update 12:40 p.m. ET: Judge Theodore Chuang didn’t rule during the hearing but said he may issue a written order later Wednesday, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society CEO and president Mark Hetfield told VICE News. The organization, a plaintiff in the ACLU and National Immigration Law Center’s challenge, helps resettle refugees.
“He gave both sides extra time and allowed the ACLU to rebut at the end as well, so it was a good, fair, thorough hearing,” Hetfield said, adding that the courtroom was packed.
Attorneys debated Trump’s campaign promises to enforce a Muslim ban and whether those comments revealed his executive order to be unconstitutional based on the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.
For their part, the Trump administration’s lawyers argued that the executive order had yet to cause any harm because it hasn’t gone into effect. But the ACLU’s lawyers countered by arguing, “Well, if he has a Muslim ban, the harm of that Muslim ban on our constitution is instantaneous and everlasting,” Hetfield said.
When: 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: U.S. District Court of Hawaii
What: Like the ACLU, Hawaii argues that halting refugees’ arrival and refusing to issue new visas is discriminatory. Not only does this ban go against the state’s constitution and values, the lawsuit argues, it could negatively impact crucial state industries like tourism and education.
Potential result: If a judge grants the injunction, both the refugee and the travel ban might not go into effect. The rest of the executive order, however, could still apply.
Update 5:06 p.m. ET: At the end of the hearing, Judge Derrick Watson announced that he will issue a ruling on Hawaii’s case before Trump’s order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on March 16, according to Buzzfeed reporter Michelle Broder Van Dyke. That’s 6:00 p.m. in Hawaii.
When: 5 p.m. ET
Where: U.S. District Court of Western Washington
What: U.S. District Judge James L. Robart, who granted the injunction that paused the first executive order nationwide, will hear one of Washington’s three challenges against Trump’s travel ban, a federal class-action lawsuit arguing that halting the visa process is discriminatory. Even if the visa process is officially restarted after 90 days, the lawsuit argues, visas can take so much time to grant that travel will be effectively halted for much longer.
Potential result: If Robart grants the injunction, the portion of the executive order that bans issuing new visas for nationals from the six countries might not take effect.
And these aren’t even the only legal hurdles the Trump administration might have to hop. Although the hearing has yet to be scheduled. Washington state brought a second challenge New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and California all joined that lawsuit. In a third move, Washington also filed a request that the nationwide pause on the first executive order — upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — apply to the revised version as well.
Update 5:46 p.m. ET: Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested that Robart place an emergency restraining order on Trump’s executive order before midnight, when it’s scheduled to take effect. While no additional hearing for that has yet been scheduled, state attorney general spokesperson Peter Lavallee told VICE News over email that Robart could rule on Ferguson’s request without one.
Update 6:30 p.m. ET: Robart did not rule from the bench and reportedly did not give a timeline for when he might make a ruling on the class action lawsuit. However, lawyers for the plaintiffs reportedly expect Robart to rule today.
We’ll update this page as the hearings progress. Check back for updates.
Keegan Hamilton and Christina Sterbenz contributed reporting.