As federal appeals court weighs in, here’s what you should know
After a month or so on the back burner of the national consciousness, President Trump’s controversial attempt to ban immigrants from six Muslim-majority nations gets a hearing today in front of a federal appeals court, a move that should heat things up around the measure.
Here are some things to prepare you for what’s coming down the judicial pike:
What’s happening today?
After a series of stinging legal defeats, President Trump’s administration hopes to convince a federal appeals court that his travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority countries is motivated by national security, not religion.
Where’s this court?
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is located in Richmond, Virginia, and it will examine an earlier court ruling that blocks the administration from temporarily barring new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
When is the hearing?
The hearing begins Monday at 11:30 a.m.
Will it be live-streamed?
In a first for the Fourth Circuit, the oral arguments will be live-streamed on its website. This move comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit drew rave reviews for broadcasting a similar hearing last month on the travel ban. Last week, the Fourth granted a request from CSPAN to broadcast the audio, acknowledging “heightened public interest” in the case.
What else is unique about today’s hearing?
In an extraordinary move signifying the importance of the case, the 4th Circuit decided to bypass the three-judge panel that typically first hears appeals and go straight to the full-court hearing. While the 4th Circuit was long considered one of the most conservative appeals courts in the country, it moved to the center under President Barack Obama, who appointed six of the 15 active judges.
What’s the larger significance of today’s court session?
It’s the first time an appeals court will hear arguments on the revised travel ban and, even more important, the case will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
What would the Trump order do?
This is a second at-bat for the president as he attempts to temporarily rein in the visa process for people coming from what the administration sees as trouble spots – an order issued just days after Trump took office was quickly blocked by the courts. The White House came up with a revised order on March 6 and it removed Iraq from the original list of banned countries and tweaked the language calling for an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria.
How did the case reach this juncture?
After Trump issued his first travel-ban order, a federal judge in Maryland found in March that the policy appeared to be driven primarily by religious animus. Attorneys for the Justice Department argued that the court shouldn’t rely on Trump’s statements on the campaign trail, but on the text of the policy, which they say is necessary to protect the country from terrorism. But the American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center say Trump wants the courts to “blind themselves to the ample, public, and uncontested evidence” that the policy targets Muslims.
Is this the only case of its kind at the moment?
The Monday hearing will be the first of two appeals heard this month. A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will review similar claims after a federal judge in Hawaii also blocked the six-country travel ban as well as the freeze on the U.S. refugee program. This panel will meet May 15 to hear arguments in that case.
What can we expect from that hearing?
Some legal observers expect the San Francisco-based jurists to uphold the block on the travel ban, considering the three judges were appointed by President Clinton, a Democrat. Those judges are Michael Daly Hawkins, Ronald Gould and Richard Paez. Hawkins was appointed in 1994. The other two were appointed in 1999. They’ll hear arguments on May 15 at the court’s Seattle courthouse.
What comes next?
Split rulings by these two courts would mean an almost certain review by the Supreme Court. Until then, a nationwide injunction on enforcement of the “Executive Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” ordered by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii, remains in effect.