Washington:Donald Trump’s latest travel ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries is unconstitutional because it discriminates against people based on their religion, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
In a 9-4 vote, the fourth US circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said it examined statements made by Trump and other administration officials, as well as the ban itself, and concluded that it was “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam”.
The court upheld a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland who issued an injunction barring enforcement of the ban against people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who have bona fide relationships with people in the US.
The US supreme court has already agreed to hear the travel ban case in April. In December, the high court said the ban could be fully enforced while appeals made their way through the courts.
In its ruling, the fourth circuit used soaring language to criticize the ban, saying it had a “much broader deleterious effect” than banning certain foreign nationals. The court said the ban “denies the possibility of a complete, intact family to tens of thousands of Americans”.
“On a fundamental level, the proclamation second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance,” the chief justice, Roger Gregory, wrote for the court in the majority opinion.
Trump has said the ban is a legitimate measure to protect national security.
The ruling was the second time the fourth circuit has rejected a travel ban. In May, the court cited Trump’s remarks on Muslim travelers while rejecting an earlier version of the ban, finding it “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination”.
Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries shortly after taking office in January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the United States. A federal judge in Seattle soon blocked it, and courts since then have wrestled with the restrictions as the administration has rewritten them.
The latest version blocks travelers from the listed countries to varying degrees, allowing for students from some of the countries, while blocking other business travelers and tourists, and allowing for admissions on a case-by-case basis.