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US judge blocks Trump travel ban in Virginia

By Reuters | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-14 12:14

US President Donald Trump's order barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from the US for 90 days suffered another blow after a Virginia judge ruled it likely violates the rights of state residents.

Monday's ruling that the Trump administration can't enforce the ban in Virginia came days after a San Francisco appeals court refused to lift a nationwide freeze on the president's executive order in a separate suit by Washington and Minnesota.

Earlier Monday, a Seattle federal judge rejected the Justice Department's bid to pause the Washington case. The rulings against the Republican president on both coasts moves the overall issue a step closer to possible Supreme Court review.

"Maximum power does not mean absolute power," US District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, said in the decision. "Every presidential action must still comply with the limits set by Congress's delegation of powers."

It's unclear whether the latest rulings will matter, though. Trump said on Friday that he may issue an entirely new immigration order to address issues raised in the cases.

The ruling in Virginia is confined to state residents and institutions, and won't apply nationwide, as requested by state Attorney General Mark Herring. But it adds to the freeze ordered in the Washington case and multiplies hurdles for Trump in fulfilling a campaign promise to shut US borders to countries with ties to terrorism. Legal challenges to the ban have also been filed in Brooklyn, New York, Washington and Maryland.

The government "has responded with no evidence other than" its executive order

to support its immigration and travel restrictions, Brinkema wrote.

Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas and Herring's press secretary, Michael Kelly, did not immediately reply to emailed requests for comment on the ruling.

Issued without warning on Jan 27, Trump's decree threw US airports into turmoil as people bound for the US learned only upon landing that they couldn't leave arrival terminals.

Many were turned back as spontaneous protests erupted outside customs areas in New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas and elsewhere.

Herring took the lead on a lawsuit initially filed by two Yemeni brothers who had attempted to visit their father in Michigan. Tareq and Ammar Aziz claimed that customs agents at Dulles International Airport tricked them into leaving the US by telling them falsely they would otherwise be shut out for five years. They dropped out of the case after later being allowed into the country.

The Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Arab-American organizations and attorneys general from 16 more states plus the District of Columbia, filed brief in support of Herring's arguments that the president's order is a "monumental abuse of executive power".

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