Muslim advocacy group seeks broader travel-ban injunction
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A federal judge in Virginia is weighing a request from a Muslim civil rights group for an even broader injunction against President Donald Trump's proposed travel ban than what other judges have imposed.
Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked the vast majority of Trump's revised ban, which would restrict immigration by refugees and from six majority-Muslim countries.
Lawyers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked a judge in Alexandria on Tuesday to issue an injunction against the entire executive order. Attorney Gadeir Abbas said Section 3 of the order, which affects how visa applicants can seek waivers, remains in force and should be blocked as well.
As a whole, he said, the purpose of the executive order "is a bare and base desire to disfavor Islam and disfavor Muslims." As long as any part of it remains in effect, Muslims are improperly stigmatized in violation of First Amendment protections for religious freedom, he argued.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler, who previously served as an attorney for the Trump campaign, acknowledged that provisions of Section 3 are being "built in" to the current process for reviewing visa applications, but said they have no practical effect on how the government issues visas.
"The process is proceeding as normal," he said.
Judge Anthony Trenga questioned whether Section 3 was in force at all - one reading of the order is that Section 3 merely allows individuals to seek waivers if they were denied a visa under Section 2, which has been placed on hold by the judges in Maryland and Hawaii.
But Abbas said the order gives new, stricter guidance to Customs and Border Protection agents that they should deny entry to the U.S. unless an applicant can prove, to the agent's satisfaction, that the denial would create an undue hardship for the would-be traveler, among other conditions.
Trenga questioned throughout the hearing whether there remains a need for him to issue a preliminary injunction, given the actions already taken by the Hawaii and Maryland judges. Abbas argued that an injunction might be needed if the other judges' orders are rescinded or reversed.
The order issued by the Hawaii judge is the broadest, but only takes the form of a temporary restraining order, which can be rescinded at a subsequent hearing. The Maryland order is not as sweeping, but comes in the form of a preliminary injunction, which is expected to remain in place until the merits of the case are decided at trial.
Lawyers for Hawaii filed a motion Tuesday arguing for the conversion of their temporary restraining order to a more durable preliminary injunction. A hearing is scheduled for March 29. Meanwhile in Maryland, the plantiffs hope to broaden their injunction to encompass refugees pending a hearing before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
The judge in Alexandria told both sides at his hearing that he will issue a written order at a later date.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Kelleher contributed to this report from Honolulu.