President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban on people entering the United States from six countries faces its latest legal test on Monday before a federal appeals court in Virginia.
The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear an hour of oral arguments in the Trump administration's appeal of a March 16 ruling by Maryland-based federal judge Theodore Chuang.
His decision blocked part of a March 6 order that restricted entry for 90 days from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The March order was Trump's second effort to craft travel restrictions. The first, issued on Jan. 27, led to chaos and protests at airports before being blocked by courts. The second order was intended to overcome the legal problems posed by the original ban, but was also blocked by judges before it could go into effect on March 16.
Another federal judge in Hawaii blocked the entry restrictions and part of the order that suspended entry of refugee applicants for 120 days. An appeal in that case will be considered by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 15.
The challengers in the Maryland case include six people, some of whom are U.S. citizens, who say the ban would prevent family members from entering the United States.
The lawsuit said that the order violates federal immigration law and a section of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment that prohibits government discrimination on the basis of religion.
The administration said in court papers that the claims are "speculative and not ripe" with none of them being able to show a "concrete, imminent injury" traceable to the order.
Government lawyers said the court should not base its findings on comments made by Trump during the 2016 election campaign about his intention to impose a so-called Muslim ban because those statements were made before he was sworn in as president on Jan. 20.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, representing the challengers, said in court papers that Trump’s comments before the election cannot be ignored.
"President Trump publicly committed himself to an indefensible goal: banning Muslims from coming to the United States," the ACLU lawyers wrote.
Whatever the court rules, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, which would make the final decision.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Dan Levine in San Francisco; editing by Grant McCool)