A second US judge has blocked Donald Trump’s latest travel ban, delivering a setback to the President’s third attempt at what has been widely described as a Muslim Ban.
Maryland US District Judge Theodore Chuang joined Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii in ruling that the ban, which stopped citizens of Chad, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Libya, North Korea and Syria entering the United States, violated immigration law.
The White House vowed to appeal the decision, setting the stage for a confrontation between the courts and the President’s executive authority.
The ban, due to have come into force this week, was blocked on Tuesday when Judge Watson ruled that it likely violated non-discrimination law because it barred immigrants on the basis of nationality.
The White House had previously justified the restrictions on national security grounds, arguing it only targeted countries that failed to impose checks and controls on visa processing.
But Mr Trump’s presidential campaign pledge for a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States” strongly indicated that security demands was likely not the primary driver of the policy.
In Maryland, Judge Chuang argued Mr Trump had not shown that an “unprecedented eight country ban” was necessary for maintaining national security.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded to the Wednesday ruling by defending the ban, saying “the order is lawful, necessary, and we are proud to defend it”.
The latest policy was Trump’s third attempt at restricting the entry of citizens of predominantly Muslim migrants to the US, after two bills were struck down by courts earlier this year.
While past policies solely targeted Muslim majority countries, this bill also excluded North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights project which was one of the parties to have challenged the ban, said it was “still a Muslim ban at its core”.
“Like the two before it, this one is going down to defeat in the courts,” he said. “Religious discrimination with window dressing is still unconstitutional.”
An anonymous source at the US State Department said consulates in Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen had been instructed to processing visas for the US as normal, but that the ban would continue to apply to Venezuela and North Korea.
Meanwhile, a report claims Mr Trump’s wealth has declined by $600m (£455m) in the last year as the value of luxury property in New York falls.