The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning travel from eight countries recognized as state sponsors of terrorism: North Korea, Venezuela, Somalia, Chad, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Iran.
This marks the second time a federal appeals court has overruled the ban; the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a similar ruling last year, and an appeal from their decision has already been accepted by the United States Supreme Court.
In the 9-4 ruling, the panel of appeals judges sitting en banc determined that, after taking into account statements made by Trump Administration officials and surrounding discussion about the travel ban, that the action was unduly restrictive to Islamic travelers, and that it was "unconstitutionally tainted with animus towards Islam."
The Trump Administration argued that, because the new ban considered only six majority Muslim countries, and featured at least two countries that did not have a religious majority — North Korea and Venezuela — that it was not unconstitutionally restrictive. Immigration from Venezuela was still allowed, and the United States is still able to issue student visas to visitors from Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Chad, provided applicants have a sponsoring educational institution.
North Korea is the only country for whom all travel and immigration is completely banned.
But this is also the Trump Administration's third attempt at crafting a 90-day travel hiatus; previous versions, also struck down, included countries like Iraq. The paper trail that accompanies those three attempts, the court says, shows a clear favoritism towards countries without Islamic populations, even when those countries are also stated sponsors of terror.
The ACLU embraced the decision. “President Trump’s third illegal attempt to denigrate and discriminate against Muslims through an immigration ban has failed in court yet again,” they said in a statement Thursday. “It’s no surprise. The Constitution prohibits government actions hostile to a religion.”
The government will likely appeal the decision, however, and it could even be combined with the earlier appeal from the Ninth Circuit.