Today two court hearings will have a major impact on the travel ban court cases started in Hawaii and Maryland. The new travel ban could either be restrained, as it happened to the first one, or it could go in full force today at midnight.
Both courts have been asked to issue a restraining order so that no restriction is placed on refugees and travelers coming from 6 Muslim-majority countries. These countries, Lybia, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Iran, and Somalia, are considered a high-security risk and were originally singled out by the Obama administration.
The travel ban prevents the issuance of new visas to these countries for 90 days. It also suspends all refugees admission for 120 days.
The original travel ban has been modified to address a previous ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that considered it partially unconstitutional.
The Two Cases Being Discussed
The State of Hawaii claims that its universities and tourist economy would be harmed by the restriction on travel. It also claims that the President’s executive order has religious connotations which are contrary to the state Constitution.
Hawaii’s Attorney General, Doug Chin, sued in conjunction with a plaintiff named Ismail Elshikh, an American citizen from Egypt. Elshikh is an imam at the Muslim Association of Hawaii and claims his family would be harmed by preventing his mother-in-law from visiting them. She lives in Syria and she would be prevented from coming in the US for 90 days.
The government has responded to the challenge stating Elshikh had not been harmed since the new travel ban allows for waivers. His mother-in-law could apply for one and be admitted.
In the Maryland case, the American Civil Liberties Union is representing refugee resettlement agencies. It claims their operation would be hurt by the temporary suspension. It also states that some of the agencies’ clients are in conflict zones and would be endangered by even a short suspension or the refugee admission program.
Government lawyers have alleged in their court filings that some refugees have proved to be national security threats. For instance, they said a Somali refugee was convicted of attempting to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Oregon. The FBI is also investigating more than 300 refugees for potential terrorist activities.
What Happened in Florida and Washington State?
The new travel ban has already lost its first legal battle in Florida. U.S. District Judge William Conley last Friday blocked the enforcement of new travel ban against a specific Syrian family.
This Syrian “John Doe” plaintiff living in Wisconsin successfully argued that the new travel ban is preventing him from reuniting with his wife and child who are currently trapped in Aleppo.
The federal judge acknowledged some “important differences” between the original executive order and the new one. Yet he concluded this particular Syrian family faces “a significant risk of irreparable harm” given “the daily threats to the lives plaintiff’s wife and child remaining in Aleppo, Syria.” The ban will be suspended against this family until a hearing scheduled on March 21st.
Washington State has also filed a suit asking Judge James Robart to extend his first restraining order to this new version of the travel ban. The federal judge ruled that neither the Justice Department or the states had properly documented the issues for him, and requested more formal briefings.
He will not decide upon this until Wednesday, at the earliest. Apparently, he wants to see what happens first in the two other court cases in Maryland and Hawaii. The same motion to Judge Robart is also supported by California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon.
The Fight Is Becoming More Politicized Than Ever
Some claim that the Trump administration has already scored a major political success with its base by demonstrating its willingness to enforce tight security measures. Any national security incident occurring because of refugees entering the US could then be blamed on the opposition.
A Pew Research Center shows that in the fiscal year 2017, Syria, Somalia, and Iran are the leading nationalities of refugees who have entered the US. The stated figures are 5,585 Syrians, 4,703 Somalians, and 1,893 Iranians.
In the meantime, the opposition party is preparing a bill to curtail the purpose of the Executive Order altogether.
These sudden legislative measures could indicate that the travel ban 2.0 might have higher chances of being upheld in court. The stakes on the US immigration battle are getting higher every day.