In line with other court rulings, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., said on Thursday she was “inclined to agree” that President Donald Trump’s second executive order restricting refugee resettlement and travel from predominantly Muslim nations likely violates the Constitution.
But U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in her brief order that she would not put a freeze on the retooled travel ban, reasoning that it’s already been put on hold by judges in Maryland and Hawaii — rulings that are now being appealed.
“The existence of two other nationwide injunctions temporarily casts uncertainty on the issue of whether the harms Plaintiffs allege are actually imminent or certain,” Chutkan wrote.
The two lawsuits over the ban Chutkan is considering, UMAA v. Trump and PARS Equality Center v. Trump, were brought by a broad coalition that includes Muslim scholars, Yemeni asylees and an Iranian-American association. Together, they claim that Trump’s order violates their right to equal protection and their right to not be stigmatized on the basis of their religion.
Even though Chutkan did not rule definitively on these claims, lawyers for the plaintiffs were encouraged by her language.
“We have believed all along that this ban was intended to tear apart American communities, inflict pain, and alienate our partners in peace across the globe,” stated Shayan Modarres, a lawyer for the National Iranian American Council, which is behind one of the lawsuits. “We stand ready to take action in the event of nationwide injunctions being lifted.”
Based in part on the president’s own campaign statements, courts have concluded that the travel ban is likely tainted by unconstitutional animus toward Muslims, and have prevented the government from enforcing it.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration argued in Richmond, Virginia, before a 13-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, that anything Trump pledged during the campaign shouldn’t be held against him, and that his executive order is authorized under federal immigration law.
Next week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will hear from the administration again in a Seattle courtroom, where the state of Hawaii will face off against the federal government over the ban.
In her order on Thursday, Chutkan noted that she’ll revisit her ruling “without delay” in the event that both appeals courts rule for Trump and allow the administration to implement the travel restrictions.
This story has been updated with a statement from Shayan Modarres.