The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, just released its ruling on whether President Trump's travel ban passes constitutional muster. In a 9-4 vote, the appellate court held that it does not.
The ban prohibits at least some residents from eight countries from traveling to the U.S. Those countries include Libya, Somalia, Chad, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, with only limited restrictions placed on the last two countries.
In essence, the thrust of the ban is to prohibit travel from six mainly Muslim countries, and that is a problem. The court found that the ban is "unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam."
The appeals court examined the presidential proclamation announcing the ban along with statements the administration issued surrounding that announcement. Those documents led the court to conclude that "on a fundamental level, the Proclamation second-guesses our nation's dedication to religious freedom and tolerance."
Moreover, the court found that banning all residents of certain countries has a "much broader deleterious effect" than would a ban on specific individuals. It "denies the possibility of a complete, intact family to tens of thousands of Americans."
Courts have ruled that the president does have broad authority to bar the entry of specific foreign nationals.
The 4th Circuit also upheld a lower court ruling that barred enforcement of the ban against anyone with a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S. In the past, bona fide relationships have been defined to include a broad range of family connections and relationships with certain entities.
This is the second federal appeals court to rule the ban unconstitutional. In December, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trump had exceeded the scope of presidential discretion in proclaiming the ban. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has already agreed to hear an appeal from the 9th Circuit and will likely combine it with any appeals brought forward from the 4th.
In defense of the ban, the government argued that the countries in the ban were not chosen because they are majority Muslim but because they don't share sufficient security information with the U.S. Its overall goal, according to the deputy U.S. assistant attorney general, is to protect the U.S. from threats such as terrorism.
If you have a family member in Libya, Somalia, Chad, Syria, Yemen or Iran who wishes to come to the U.S., you should know that U.S. officials are authorized to allow that on a case-by-case basis. We recommend you contact an immigration attorney for information and assistance.