US President Donald Trump’s latest attempt to bar citizens of eight countries from entering the US has suffered a second federal court defeat.
Judges in Hawaii and Maryland issued separate temporary restraining orders on the open-ended travel ban.
Both judges cited Mr Trump’s campaign description of it as a “Muslim ban”.
The policy targets travellers from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as some Venezuelan officials.
Two previous iterations of the ban targeted six Muslim-majority countries, and were widely referred to by Trump officials as a “Muslim ban”.
On Wednesday – the day the measure was meant to take effect, a coalition of Muslim and civil rights groups plan to march from the White House to the Trump Hotel and then on to the headquarters of Customs and Border Patrol agency.
Mr Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, told a group of senators that the president’s “order is lawful, necessary, and we are proud to defend it”.
“We are confident that we will ultimately prevail,” he testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In Maryland, Judge Theodore Chuang’s ruling early on Wednesday said the latest version of the ban “generally resembles President Trump’s earlier description of the Muslim ban”.
“The ‘initial’ announcement of the Muslim ban, offered repeatedly and explicitly through President Trump’s own statements, forcefully and persuasively expressed his purpose in unequivocal terms,” Judge Chuang wrote.
The Maryland decision came after a judge in Hawaii ruled that the revised policy was fulfilling Mr Trump’s campaign promise for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, despite the addition of North Korea and Venezuela.
US District Judge Derrick Watson, who blocked Mr Trump’s last travel ban in March, issued the Tuesday’s restraining order on the grounds that the president did not have the powers under federal immigration law to impose such restrictions.
The president’s controversial travel bans have each been frustrated by the courts to some degree:
- In January, the president signed an order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending all refugee entry. The measure prompted protests and legal challenges across dozens of states
- A revised version exempted green card holders and dual citizens. By June, the Supreme Court allowed most of it to go into effect – but granted a wide exemption for those with a “bona fide connection” to the US
- That was replaced by Mr Trump’s latest order, announced in late September, which changed the criteria and added non-Muslim-majority nations North Korea and Venezuela.
In Honolulu, Judge Watson decided the new policy “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor”.
He said “it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six [of the] specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States'”.
His decision temporarily blocks the ban on all targeted countries except North Korea and Venezuela.
The ban is also facing court challenges from Washington state, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and New York.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement the latest court order was “dangerously flawed” and “undercuts” efforts to keep Americans safe.
“These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation,” she said.
She said the White House was confident the president’s “lawful and necessary action” would eventually be upheld by the courts.
As it stands, the Supreme Court has delayed its consideration of the case from October, asking all parties to resubmit briefs to the court accounting for the changes made between the second and third versions of the order.