A federal judge in Maryland who last month blocked enforcement nationwide of one key part of President Trump’s revised restrictions on immigration refused on Monday to prevent enforcement of two other significant parts — both dealing with refugees seeking to enter the U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Greenbelt, MD, explained that he had no authority to add to his order, because it is now on appeal by the Trump Administration, taking away his jurisdiction.
The ruling, though, has no immediate impact on refugees that might be affected by the Trump order because another federal judge — in Hawaii — has blocked enforcement nationwide of all of the provisions that have been at issue in Judge Chuang’s Maryland court.
The Trump Administration has challenged both the Maryland ruling as well as the broader Hawaii decision, in appeals to, respectively, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In both appeals, government lawyers have gained review on expedited schedules and are now seeking postponement of both judges’ orders during the appeals. One or both of those postponement requests could be decided this month by the appeals courts, and that could send the deep controversy over the Trump executive order to the Supreme Court, at least on the question of enforcement.
Two refugee resettlement groups that had won their first challenge in the Maryland court to the Trump order’s 90-day ban on entry of any foreign nationals from six Mideast nations — the part now under review by the Fourth Circuit Court — had followed that up with a new plea to prevent enforcement of a 120-day suspension of entry of any refugee from any place in the world, plus the imposition of a 50,000 annual ceiling on refugees who could be admitted into this country.
As in their challenge to the 90-day suspension, the groups had contended that the 120-day suspension and annual ceiling provisions were a form of religious discrimination against Muslims, in violation of the Constitution’s ban on favoring or disfavoring any specific religion.
The two groups had earlier challenged all of those provisions, but in the judge’s initial ruling in March, he had concluded that the challengers had not made their case against the parts of the executive order dealing with refugees. In denying the groups’ second attempt to stop those provisions, too, the judge said the challenge could be raised again after the Fourth Circuit Court has ruled on the 90-day suspension — depending on how that ruling came out.
He also indicated that, aside from the loss of his jurisdiction to consider the new request, refugees affected by the Trump order are now protected by the nationwide enforcement ban laid down by the judge in Hawaii.