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Maryland Judge Clashes with Trump Administration, Critics Over Latest Travel Ban

— October 17, 2017

A federal judge in Maryland heard arguments against the third and latest rendition of Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban.

The controversial executive order marks a slight divergence from its predecessors. While the first two actions targeted only migration from a handful of Muslim-majority countries, the last introduced restrictions on Venezuela and North Korea. Sudan was dropped from the list, just as Chad was added.

Critics of the measure say the inclusion of Venezuela and North Korea is window-dressing, with the effect being to insulate the Oval Office from accusations of Islamophobia.

Immigration from North Korea to the United States is negligible, considering the Hermit Kingdom’s near-total isolation. Meanwhile, the sanctions imposed on Venezuela only affect a small class of individuals, such as those close to the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

Trump’s third ‘travel ban’ tailors restrictions to each country listed, and is due to take effect early Wednesday morning.

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang, in Maryland, heard a 90-minute argument against the executive order on Monday – an argument which echoes those levied against its predecessors.

Despite Chuang blocking part of Trump’s second travel ban in March, he didn’t appear overly inclined toward either side during this week’s debate.

According to, Chuang was particularly insistent that Justice Department attorney Hashim Mooppan reveal more details about a classified Department of Homeland Security memo which was purportedly used by the Trump administration to lay down the groundwork for its third travel ban.

“Are you representing to me now as an officer of the court that there’s nothing in there that inconsistent with this proclamation?” asked Chuang.

Mooppan, the second-ranking attorney in the Justice Department’s civil division, didn’t seem willing to oblige a direct response.

“I think what’s in the proclamation supports [the policy] under the relevant legal standard,” answered Mooppan.

The government attorney, when pressed further, said he’d read the document himself but didn’t think the court needed to know exactly what the memo said.

Politico says the DHS paper “addresses deficiencies in vetting of visitors to the U.S. and information sharing with foreign governments.”

Donald Trump holds up his signed executive order which would bar residents of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States; image courtesy of Pablo Martinez Monsivals, AP

Chuang challenged Mooppan, citing the 1944 Supreme Court decision in Korematsu v. United States – a case which upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War as legal.

Later, sometime after the war ended, it was revealed that some of the facts the government used to support its stance weren’t entirely accurate.

“How is this different from Korematsu?” asked Chuang, concerned that Trump’s third travel ban could someday be found inconsistent with the DHS document allegedly used as its inspiration.

“I do not think we have the obligation nor should we ask about whether there were disagreements among presidential advisors,” said Mooppan. “We stand behind the factual representations in the proclamation.”

Despite Chuang’s annoyance with the Justice Department attorney, he also seemed concerned about the travel ban’s critics.

One of the principle arguments now being put forth by the ban’s opponents is whether the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela is intended to put off accusations of Islamophobia. Chuang wondered whether such rhetoric could follow any attempt by the administration to take action on any Muslim-majority country.

“What is the limiting principle” that would prevent Trump from being sued “again and again?” Chuang asked American Civil Liberties Union attorney Omar Jadwat. “If this does not cure the issues that you raised the last time, what would the government have to do to demonstrate that they have?”

Chuang didn’t give an exact date for a ruling, but he did promise to act as soon as he could.


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