(CN) - The Fourth Circuit ruled Thursday that President Trump's latest travel ban targeting individuals from six Muslim-majority countries unconstitutionally discriminates against practitioners of the Islamic faith.
With its 9-4 vote, the Fourth Circuit became the second federal appeals court to declare the ban violates the law since it went into effect in September.
In December, the Ninth Circuit held the travel ban violates federal immigration law.
Despite the two decisions, the travel ban remains in effect due to a Supreme Court ruling that said it could be enacted while the high court considers a pending challenge to it. The Justices are expected to hear arguments in that case in April.
Writing for the Fourth Circuit majority on Thursday, U.S. Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory said the plaintiffs had offered "undisputed evidence that the President of the United States has openly and often expressed his desire to ban those of Islamic faith from entering the United States."
"The Proclamation is thus not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on 'religious animosity."
But not everyone on the Fourth Circuit agreed. In a dissent included in the 285 pages of court documents released Thursday, U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer said the majority was intruding on the administration's decision-making as it relates to national security.
"This case involves an Article III court's bold effort to second-guess U.S. foreign policy and, in particular, the President's discretionary decisions on immigration implicating matters of national Security," Niemeyer wrote. "Our constitutional structure forbids such intrusion by the judiciary."
The six plaintiffs in the case are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In a written statement, Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty & National Security Program, said "Yet again, a federal court has confirmed that blanket bans on Muslims, even when wrapped up in the rhetoric of ‘national security,’ are at odds with American laws and values.
“The President’s discriminatory ban will never pass legal muster. But we must continue to be vigilant as the administration pursues other avenues to translate its anti-Muslim bias into policy, such as discriminatory immigrant vetting rules,” Patel said.
Michael Price, senior counsel in the Liberty & National Security Program, added “The President’s own words reveal the raw religious animus that continues to separate families and stigmatize American Muslims. We’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will see it the same way.”
Also commenting on the ruling Thursday was Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, which had filed a brief in the case.
“We will not sit idly by as this administration continues its racist and hateful attacks on immigrant and refugee communities,” Tumlin said in a written statement. "We continue to stand proudly with our plaintiffs, refugees, and American Muslim communities to fight inside and outside the courtroom until there is no Muslim ban ever.”
The travel ban that was the focus of Thursday's ruling is the third version that the Trump administration has put in place since shortly after the president's inauguration. It prevents travel to the United States by nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
It also blocks entry into the country of individuals from North Korea and Venezuela with ties to their respective governments.Follow @@BradKutner
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