Federal Judge Advances Challenge to Trump Travel Ban

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., right, joined by Johnathan Smith of Muslim Advocates, speaks during a protest outside the Supreme Court on June 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

DETROIT (CN) – A lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban targeting Muslim countries will move forward, a federal judge in Michigan ruled Wednesday.

The current version of the president’s 2017 proclamation, which he claimed was to combat terrorism, barred the issuance of visas to travelers from eight countries, including six with Muslim-majority populations: Iran, Syria, Chad, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela.

Causing chaos at airports and sparking protests across the country, the first and second iterations of the proclamation were shot down by the courts. The third, narrower version remains in effect.

The Arab American Civil Rights League and several people who were denied, or faced the threat of being denied, the ability to travel back to their homes in Detroit filed a federal lawsuit days after the third version was issued.

They claim violations of their First and Fifth Amendment rights. An amended complaint added additional organizations as plaintiffs, and four people whose family members overseas have been denied visas.

The defendants, including President Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, asked the court to dismiss the amended complaint, saying that some of the individual plaintiffs live in New York rather than Michigan and the organizations lack standing to sue.

But U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, a Bill Clinton appointee, denied the motion Wednesday, writing in her 21-page order that the Trump administration failed “to meaningfully challenge the factual allegations” of the complaint.

“Plaintiffs allege significant, well-pled and supported facts to refute that the proclamation is rationally related to national security goals and to induce other nations to improve information sharing,” Roberts wrote, adding that the lawsuit “also plausibly alleges that the proclamation is not able to be explained by anything but animus toward Muslims.”

The judge noted that the proclamation began with Trump “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which she called an “impermissible motive.”

“Although the proclamation is facially neutral, its impact falls predominantly on Muslims. This is not surprising considering that the historical background of the proclamation and sequence of events preceding it ‘reveal[] numerous actions being taken for discriminatory purposes,’” Roberts wrote.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling.

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