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Judge in Virginia declines to block travel ban

Immigration activists rally in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2017 against the Trump administration's new ban against travelers from six Muslim-majority nations. (Photo by Reuters)

A federal judge in the US state of Virginia has ruled against groups who sought to block the Trump administration's revised travel ban.

On Friday, Judge Anthony Trenga of Alexandria, Virginia, ruled that President Donald Trump has rights to temporarily ban immigration from six Muslim-majority countries and suspend the US refugee program.

At a hearing earlier this week, Trenga questioned whether a ban was necessary, considering that judges in Hawaii and Maryland had already blocked the vast majority of the executive order from taking effect.

“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 judge wrote.

The ruling bolsters the administration’s efforts to overturn a block on his executive order issued by the two states.

Trenga further noted that the newer order is free of explicit religious discrimination, and it offers a national security rationale for the six specific countries included, and offers exceptions for individuals in the form of waivers.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said her agency was pleased with ruling.

“The Department of Justice is pleased with the ruling,” she said in a statement.

“As the Court correctly explains, the President’s Executive Order falls well within his authority to safeguard the nation’s security,” she added.

The first measure signed on January 27 barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries — Syria, Iraq, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia — from entering the US for 90 days, and shut down the country's refugee resettlement program for 120 days.

Trump signed the revised travel ban order on March 6, after the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's injunction against his initial executive action. The revised order removes Iraq from the list of blocked countries and exempts visa and green card holders from the ban.

People gather to pray during a protest against the travel ban imposed by US President Donald Trump's executive order, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas,  January 29, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Gadeir Abbas, attorney representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who is on the other side of the argument, said the ruling was disappointing but he believed that it would have little practical significance.

“It really doesn’t change much for us,” he said.

“While we disagree with the decision, it doesn’t affect any of the other injunctions that have been put in place, and it allows us now to take the next step which is to get the full hearing before the Fourth Circuit,” he added.

Federal appeals court set a date for the next hearing on Trump’s blocked travel ban, ordering oral arguments to be held on May 8 in Richmond, Virginia.

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