Appeals Court Rules Against Trump's Travel Ban

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The Trump administration's attempts to restrict Muslim immigration into the U.S. have been blocked by several federal courts, and that trend continued on Monday, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction against Trump's travel ban. It's the latest setback for the administration's controversial immigration policy — but this ruling isn't necessarily the end of the story.

Trump rolled out his flagship immigration policy less than two weeks after taking office, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked it from taking effect just days after it the administration implemented it, arguing that the policy was unconstitutional. Since then, several other courts have agreed with the 9th Circuit, and despite Trump issuing a watered-down version of the policy in March, his travel ban still hasn't been able to pass constitutional muster, and it remains blocked. However, the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's decision, and that could result in the injunction being lifted on a temporary basis.

There are several legal issues being debated with regard to the travel ban, but it largely boils down to two questions: What's the true goal of the travel ban, and does the administration's attempt to achieve that goal violate the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which prohibits religious discrimination?

The White House argues that the policy was intended to serve a national security interest. However, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that "the Government’s asserted national security interest in enforcing [the travel ban] appears to be a post hoc, secondary justification for an executive action rooted in religious animus and intended to bar Muslims from this country." It came to this conclusion, in part, because of "the President’s numerous campaign statements promising a Muslim ban."

"We do not discount that EO-2 may have some national security purpose, nor do we disclaim that the injunction may have some impact on the Government," the court found. "But our inquiry, whether for determining Section 2(c)’s primary purpose or for weighing the harm to the parties, is one of balance, and on balance, we cannot say that the Government’s asserted national security interest outweighs the competing harm to Plaintiffs of the likely Establishment Clause violation."

For these reasons, the 4th Circuit upheld an earlier injunction that had been issued against the travel ban. The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to lift this injunction temporarily while the larger case makes its way through the court. This will be the most high-profile and high-stakes confrontation yet in Trump's ongoing feud with America's judicial branch.