A federal judge on Monday launched skeptical questions at both government lawyers and those challenging the latest iteration of President Donald Trump’s travel ban — probing at what government officials’ intent was in barring various types of people from eight countries from coming to the United States.
At a hearing in federal court in Greenbelt, Md., U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang asked government lawyers about the extent of Trump’s involvement in coming up with the latest ban, and what those opposed to the measure felt the president could do so it would pass legal muster.
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The hearing marked one of the last opportunities for challengers of the newest ban to make their case that the judiciary should block the measure before it fully goes into effect Wednesday. The challenge was brought by advocacy groups including the International Refugee Assistance Project and Muslims who say they will be negatively impacted by the ban.
The case in Maryland is critical, as Chuang blocked the last version of Trump’s travel ban. Those suing hope he will do so again, though judges in Hawaii and Washington, who have also blocked previous versions of the ban, are considering separate requests to intervene.
Trump’s latest travel ban, the third iteration of the measure, affects citizens of eight countries, though some are more completely blocked from coming to the U.S. than others.
For Syria and North Korea, the directive blocks immigrants wanting to relocate to the United States and nonimmigrants wishing to visit in some capacity. For Iran, it blocks both immigrants and non-immigrants, though it exempts students and those participating in a cultural exchange.
The ban blocks people from Chad, Libya and Yemen from coming to the United States as immigrants or on business or tourist visas, and it blocks people from Somalia from coming as immigrants. The proclamation also blocks certain Venezuela officials.
At the hearing in Maryland, Chuang asked about the information used to develop the list of banned countries and whether he should consider Trump’s past remarks about Muslims when deciding whether to block the executive order.
Deputy Attorney General Hashim Mooppan stressed that it was officials at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security who helped craft the new directive, which he asserted had “nothing to do with” religion.
Challengers countered that the measure was not as targeted as it could be and that it was poisoned by the president’s past comments about wanting a ban on Muslims.