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4th Circuit rules Trump travel ban unconstitutional

A second federal appeals court has just ruled that President Trump's travel ban is unconstitutional, even in its revised form. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, has just found the ban "unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam." The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled the ban unconstitutional in December. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal, probably of both cases, in April.

In its current form, the presidential proclamation bans travel by anyone from Somalia, Libya, Chad, Syria, Iran or Yemen, along with certain individuals from Venezuela and North Korea. The broad portion of the ban, therefore, involves travelers from six majority-Muslim nations.

The government defended the ban as neutral toward religion. It claims the countries were chosen based on their inability or refusal to share sufficient security-related information with the U.S. This was done after a multi-agency review of countries across the globe. The administration also pointed out that, as courts have previously ruled, the president has broad authority to restrict the entry of certain foreign nationals when he thinks they could act contrary to U.S. interests. The ban is intended to fight terrorism.

In making its ruling, the 4th Circuit examined the presidential proclamation, statements made surrounding it, and evidence presented by the administration. Based on all of that information, the court found in a 9-4 vote that, "on a fundamental level, the Proclamation second-guesses our nation's dedication to religious freedom and tolerance."

Considering the issue of the president's authority to exclude certain foreign nationals, the court ruled that this did not include denying entry to all residents of specific countries. Doing that, the court said, has a "much broader deleterious effect" than would be seen if the president barred entry for specific individuals. A country-wide ban "denies the possibility of a complete, intact family to tens of thousands of Americans."

It is unclear how the ban will operate now. The 4th Circuit specifically stated that the ban cannot constitutionally be applied against anyone with a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S. That includes a wide range of family members and others. However, the Supreme Court has said that the ban remains in force while the courts examine it.

What we do know is that U.S. immigration officials have authority to allow people from the banned countries into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis. If you have a family member from one of the countries in the ban, an immigration lawyer may be able to help you bring them to the United States.

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