US court says Trump travel ban unlawfully discriminates against Muslims

A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries violates the US Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018

US court says Trump travel ban unlawfully discriminates against Muslims

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries violates the US Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday in another legal setback for the policy.
The Richmond-based 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, on a 9-4 vote, became the second federal appeals court to rule against the ban, finding that the Republican president’s own words demonstrated that bias against Muslims was the basis of the policy.
The US Supreme Court has allowed the ban, put in place by Trump with a presidential proclamation in September, to go into effect while litigation challenging it continues.
The 4th Circuit ruling went further than the earlier decision by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the ban violated federal immigration law but did not address the question of whether it also violated the Constitution. The Supreme Court already has said it will consider both issues in deciding the legality of the ban in the coming months.
The justices are due in April to hear arguments over the ban and issue a ruling by the end of June.
“Examining official statements from President Trump and other executive branch officials, along with the proclamation itself, we conclude that the proclamation is unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam,” 4th Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote in the ruling.
The travel ban challengers “offer undisputed evidence of such bias: the words of the President,” Gregory wrote, noting Trump’s “disparaging comments and tweets regarding Muslims.”
As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The court also took note of the fact that Trump in November shared on Twitter anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In the main dissenting opinion, Judge Paul Niemeyer said the courts should be deferential to the president on matters of national security. Niemeyer criticized the majority, saying his colleagues applied “a novel legal rule that provides for the use of campaign-trail statements to recast later official acts of the president.”
Trump’s policy, the third version of the ban that he has issued since taking office in January 2017, blocks entry into the United States of most people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Trump has said the policy is needed to protect the United States from terrorism by militants.
Thursday’s ruling upheld a Maryland-based district court judge’s decision in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents several advocacy groups including the International Refugee Assistance Project.
“President Trump’s third illegal attempt to denigrate and discriminate against Muslims through an immigration ban has failed in court yet again. It’s no surprise,” ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang said.


Japan to send own force, won’t join US coalition for Mideast

Updated 46 sec ago

Japan to send own force, won’t join US coalition for Mideast

  • In June, a Japanese-operated tanker was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, and the US said Iran was responsible
  • US-Iranian relations have deteriorated since President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal
TOKYO: Japan’s government said Friday it has decided not to join a US coalition to protect commercial vessels in the Middle East but is preparing to send its own force to ensure the safe shipment of oil to Japan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan will keep cooperating closely with Washington even if it won’t join the initiative the US says is aimed at protecting commercial tankers from alleged Iranian attacks.
“Peace and stability in the Middle East is extremely important for the international society, including Japan,” Suga said at a news conference. “After we studied comprehensively what measures can be most effective, we have decided to pursue our own measures separately.”
Japan’s energy needs rely heavily on oil imports. It has kept friendly ties with Iran and is reluctant to join such a force.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to help ease tension between Washington and Tehran.
US-Iranian relations have deteriorated since President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions that deteriorated the Iranian economy. Iran has since begun breaking terms of the deal.
The tensions have included seizures of oil tankers at sea.
Suga said Japan plans to deploy warships initially for information gathering purposes to the Gulf of Oman, the Northern Arabian Sea and nearby waters, but did not include the Strait of Hormuz at the center of the US-Iran tension. Warships are expected to Timing of a dispatch hasn’t been decided.
Sending warships to areas of military tension is a highly sensitive issue in Japan, where its pacifist postwar constitution strictly limits use of force to the country’s self-defense only. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, has gradually expanded Japan’s military role.
In June, a Japanese-operated tanker was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, which Washington said Iran was responsible and urged Japan to join the US-led military initiative.