The latest version of President Trump's entry ban will face a pair of legal challenges in the span of a few days next month in federal appeals courts on opposite coasts.
The Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit announced this week it would consider the third iteration of Trump's travel order sitting with a full complement of judges on Dec. 8. Those arguments will come two days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is set to hear a separate challenge to the restrictions on U.S. entry before a three-judge panel in Seattle.
The third version of Trump's policy bars certain travelers who are citizens of Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. The administration said the revised restrictions came after a thorough review in which officials identified eight countries that were unwilling or unable to provide information needed to vet those seeking to travel to the United States.
Before the policy could take effect last month, a federal judge in Hawaii halted the ban for various immigrants and travelers from all but two of the countries — North Korea and Venezuela. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson said the president had likely overstepped his authority when it comes to setting immigration policy.
The appeal at the 4th Circuit follows a more limited ruling last month from a federal judge in Maryland. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang stopped the administration from enforcing the ban only for those with close family or professional ties to a person or business in the United States. Chuang said that despite the revisions, the president's own words — on the campaign trail and on Twitter — meant the policy was still effectively an unconstitutional ban on Muslims.
The twin cases being heard in December are the latest challenges to the administration's attempts to bar entry it says is needed for national security. Government officials rewrote the policy after judges found the ban to be discriminatory, based on religion in part by targeting travelers from majority-Muslim nations.
Both appellate courts have already ruled against the administration in challenges to the second version of the travel ban. The Supreme Court, however, vacated the decisions by the two appeals courts, meaning that the rulings are no longer on the books as precedent.
Even with the review and the revisions, Chuang wrote last month that the government offered "no evidence, even in the form of classified information submitted to the Court, showing an intelligence-based terrorism threat justifying a ban on entire nationalities," and he asserted that even the new measure "generally resembles President Trump's earlier description of the Muslim ban."
Justice Department lawyers said in court filings that Chuang's ruling "threatens to disable the president permanently from addressing immigration-related national-security risks in countries that pose the greatest concern."
At the 4th Circuit, the court announced Monday that it would again bypass the traditional three-judge panel and have a full set of judges review the challenge. Two judges — J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a Ronald Reagan nominee, and Allyson K. Duncan, a George W. Bush nominee — will not participate. Wilkinson's son-in-law, Jeffrey B. Wall, is a deputy solicitor general and argued the government's case last May. Duncan did not publicly elaborate on her recusal.
At the 9th Circuit, the case will be heard Dec. 6 by a panel made up of three judges — Michael Daly Hawkins, Ronald M. Gould and Richard A. Paez, who all were nominated to the court by Bill Clinton.
Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.