President Trump's temporary travel ban targeting six majority-Muslim countries was dealt another blow Thursday after a federal judge in Maryland suspended a portion of the ban that prevented visas being issued to nationals of the six countries, reports said.
The Maryland decision follows a ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday, although it is narrower in scope.
In the Hawaii ruling, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued a nationwide halt to the ban that would have barred new visas and prevented the admission of new refugees. It was a stinging rebuke of Trump's second attempt to institute the controversial order just hours before it was to take effect.
The executive order, signed by Trump on March 6, bars citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. It includes several changes from the original ban struck down in court. The new order would have removed Iraq from the list.
Watson wrote in his ruling that the federal government had not proved the ban was needed to protect the U.S. from terrorists trying to infiltrate the country through legal immigration or the refugee program. He wrote that despite changes made by the White House to the new ban, it clearly violated constitutional protections of religion based on comments made by Trump during his presidential campaign.
The Maryland ruling was made by U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang. Like Watson, he determined that Trump's executive order was "the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban" and also pointed to comments made by Trump throughout his campaign, according to a copy of the ruling seen by The Washington Post.
A Judge in Washington state heard arguments on the legal challenges Wednesday and may also issue a ruling Thursday.
Watson, who was appointed by President Obama in 2013, issued a temporary restraining order, and wrote that it would remain in effect if the Department of Justice appeals the ruling.
Trump called the ruling an "unprecedented judicial overreach" during a rally in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday night. He hinted that Watson’s ruling was motivated by “political reasons,” and said he would appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The White House has not commented on Thursday's additional ruling by Chuang.
Trump also quoted from a federal law that gives presidents the power to bar whole classes of immigrants if the president unilaterally deems them “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
“Whoever is president can say ‘I’m sorry folks, not now, please, we’ve got enough problems,’” Trump said. “We’re talking about the safety of our nation, the safety and security of our people.”
The Department of Justice followed up Wednesday night, saying it "strongly disagrees" with the ruling, calling it "flawed both in reasoning and in scope." In a statement, the department said it would continue defending Trump's order in court.
(© 2017 USA TODAY)