A Federal Court in Virginia has ruled that President Donald Trump’s travel ban was justified—a move which will not undo orders from courts in Maryland and Hawaii, but which will ensure that the fight will go before the Supreme Court.
U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga rejected arguments by Muslim plaintiffs who claimed Trump’s March 6 executive order, temporarily banning the entry of all refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, was discriminatory.
The decision went against two previous court rulings that put an emergency halt to the order before it was set to take effect on March 16. The order remains halted.
Trump has said he plans to appeal those unfavorable rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court if needed, and differing opinions by lower courts give more grounds for the highest court to take up the case.
Trenga said the complaint backed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), found that more than 20 individuals who brought the suit had been able to show they were harmed by the travel ban since they might be unable to reunite with their relatives.
But he also ruled that Trump’s revised order, which replaced a more sweeping version signed on Jan. 27 and rejected by courts, fell within the president’s authority to make decisions about immigration.
He said that since the order did not mention religion, the court could not look behind it at Trump’s statements about a “Muslim ban” to determine what was in the “drafter’s heart of hearts.”
“We’re confident that the president’s fully lawful and necessary action will ultimately be allowed to move forward through the rest of the court systems,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at a briefing.
A ruling by U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii put a stop to the two central sections of the revised ban that blocked travelers from six countries and refugees, while leaving other parts of the order in place.
U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland only put a halt to the section on travelers.
The Virginia lawsuit sought to strike down the revised ban in its entirety.
Watson scheduled a hearing for next week to decide whether his temporary order blocking the travel and refugee restrictions should be converted into a more formal preliminary injunction. The Justice Department has said it would oppose that bid.
The government has appealed Chuang’s decision in Maryland, also to the 4th circuit, and a hearing in that case is scheduled for May 8.
Trenga’s ruling gives ammunition to government lawyers arguing for the ban across several U.S. courts where cases against it are pending.