March 17 (UPI) — The Justice Department on Friday signaled its intent to appeal one of the two court rulings suspending President Donald Trump‘s executive order restricting travel from six predominantly Muslim countries.
In a short written notice to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department petitioned judges to hear an appeal of a Maryland district court decision that halted implementation of a revised version of Trump’s executive order. The judge in the case ruled the travel ban demonstrated unconstitutional religious bias against Muslims.
Trump has said the travel ban is necessary to give the government time to examine its procedures granting travel visas and refugee status to prevent terrorists from entering the country.
Judges in Maryland and Hawaii both disagreed with the administration’s position and halted the new rules from taking effect hours before they were set to be implemented.
Friday’s notice of appeal only applies to the Maryland case, though the government is expected to appeal the Hawaii court’s decision, as well. Trump promised this week he would take the appeals to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The 4th Circuit did not set a quick timeline for hearing the government’s case. It gave the Justice Department a deadline of April 26 to file legal briefs and gave the immigration groups that brought the lawsuit a month to respond.
The Trump Administration has cited existing federal law that grants the president power to suspend immigration for national security or economic reasons, but critics have pointed to conflicting laws that prohibit racial or religious bias in determining immigration policies.
The revised executive order dropped some of the more contentious tenets of the first order signed in January. It dropped Iraq, an ally in the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, from the list of barred countries. It also included language that specified existing green card and visa holders would be exempt.
When the first executive order went into effect, chaotic scenes unfolded at some U.S. airports, as families of individuals traveling abroad were left without answers as to when, or if, their loved ones would be granted entry into the United States. Some individuals who had already been granted refugee status were turned away.
A Seattle judge struck down the order and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, prompting an angry response from Trump against the federal judiciary on Twitter.
After calling the second order “a watered down version” of the first one, Trump in a speech in Nashville on Wednesday called the second wave of legal setbacks “an unprecedented judicial overreach” that made the country appear “weak” on terrorism.