A federal appeals court has refused to lift a temporary block on President Donald Trump's revised travel ban.The Virginia-based court said the president's broad immigration power was "not absolute" and the ban "intended to bar Muslims from this country".The decision upheld a lower Maryland court ruling that found the ban violated constitutional rights. The order would have placed a temporary ban on people from six mainly Muslim countries and the refugee program. The case is likely to head to the Supreme Court.
The US government argues federal immigration laws grant the president broad powers to stop foreigners from entering the country. But Chief Judge Roger L Gregory, who wrote the majority opinion for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, said Mr Trump's powers have limits.
"It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation," said Judge Gregory. The court added the government's national security argument was a "secondary justification for an executive order rooted in religious animus and intended to bar Muslims from this country". The decision means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue travelling to the US.
The 10-3 ruling is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for an order the president insists is needed to stop terrorists from entering the country. Two lower court rulings blocked the ban just hours before it was due to begin in March.
A Maryland judge ruled that the order was meant to be a ban on Muslims and violated the first amendment of the US constitution. A federal judge in Hawaii also sided with opponents that the ban was discriminatory and cited "questionable evidence" in the government's argument that the ban was a matter of national security.
The Justice Department has appealed against the Hawaii decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments for the case on 15 May.
The Ninth Circuit Court is the same court which also refused to lift a block on Mr Trump's initial travel ban signed on 27 January. That order took effect for seven days before a federal judge in Seattle halted it.
Instead of appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, he issued a revised version on 6 March. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a statement after Thursday's ruling calling it an "important victory for the rule of law".
"I will support challenges to this illegal and unconstitutional executive order as our own case against the travel ban continues in federal court here in Washington."
The controversial ban has prompted protests and debate across the US.
Hang in there and stay strong collective judiciary. The ban is wrong on many levels and sets a precedent that will affect and offend all nationalities and cultures of the world and give them negative feelings toward Americans. In turn , those attitudes will gradually affect all international dealings with America. Canada has always been a close friend and ally to the United States but we have noticed a cooling and distancing, among Canadians who were asked for their opinions on relations with our southern neighbors. That attitude, if it becomes global, will take away the good fellowship and trust that has always been associated with the United States. Don't judge an entire culture and religion by a handful of sociopathic, remorseless radicals. And don't be led around by a xenophobic real estate salesman.