Two courts enjoin President Trump’s modified executive order

President Trump issued a new executive order on March 6, 2017 blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. Nine days later on March 15, 2017, a federal court in Hawaii issued an order enjoining the new travel ban followed by a Maryland federal court ruling against a core provision of the executive order, which was modified from a January 27, 2017 executive order previously blocked by the courts.

The new executive order is narrower in scope. It still imposes a 90-day travel ban, but Iraq is no longer included. The order affects travelers from Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Iran and Yemen, who face a suspension of visa processing. Current visa holders and permanent residents are excluded from the ban. The modified executive order replaced an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees with a 120-day freeze, and did away with language giving religious minorities preferential status. The new order cuts the number of refugees admitted to the United States each year from about 110,000 to 50,000.

Judge Derrick K. Watson, of U.S. District Court in Honolulu, invoked President Trump’s public comments in stating that an objective observer would see the new executive order as having the purpose of disfavoring a particular religion, despite its stated religious neutrality. Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland also found that the executive order’s likely purpose was to ban Muslims. Speaking at a campaign-style rally in Nashville, President Trump criticized Judge Watson’s decision, saying that the ruling was made for political reasons. President Trump also called the modified executive order a “watered-down version of the first one.”

The Justice Department has announced its intent to appeal each ruling.