Federal Judge Sides With Trump On Immigration Executive Order
"... unqualified authority to bar physical entry to the United States ..."
March 25, 2017
A federal judge upheld President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and travel Friday in a ruling that could set the stage for a Supreme Court battle over the order.
Judge Anthony Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia — who is an appointee of former President George W. Bush — said in his 32-page ruling that under the powers of the presidency, Trump was legally allowed to ban travel from those countries specified in the order.
Trenga said a president “has unqualified authority to bar physical entry to the United States at the border.” He said Trump’s order does not mention religion and has a “state secular purpose” of protecting U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks.
Trenga said the legal question at issue in not whether the order “is wise, necessary, under- or over-inclusive, or even fair” but whether it “falls within the bounds of the President’s statutory authority or whether the President has exercised that authority in violation of constitutional restraints.”
Unlike other judges, Trenga drew a barrier between Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and his actions as president.
“This court is no longer faced with a facially discriminatory order coupled with contemporaneous statements suggesting discriminatory intent,” Trenga wrote. “And while the President and his advisers have continued to make statements following the issuance of EO-1 (the first executive order) that have characterized or anticipated the nature of EO-2 (the revised ban), the court cannot conclude for the purposes of the motion that these statements, together with the President’s past statements, have effectively disqualified him from exercising his lawful presidential authority.”
“The substantive revisions reflected in EO-2 have reduced the probative value of the President’s statements to the point that it is no longer likely that plaintiffs can succeed on their claim that the predominate purpose of EO-2 is to discriminate against Muslims based on their religion and that EO-2 is a pretext or a sham for that purpose,” Trenga added.
The Justice Department praised the ruling.
“As the court correctly explains, the president’s executive order falls well within his authority to safeguard the nation’s security,” said department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores.
The ruling conflicts with others issued in Hawaii and Maryland in which Trump’s comments on the campaign trail, particularly a December 2015 statement in which Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., were considered in the decisions.