US President Donald Trump's revised travel ban targeting citizens of six Muslim-majority countries does not discriminate on religious grounds and was wrongly suspended by a federal judge, the administration argued in an appeals court.
In court documents filed on Friday, the Trump administration asked the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the ban and correct the “flawed” analysis of the Hawaii court that halted the executive order last month.
US District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii blocked Trump’s second travel ban following a lawsuit by the state that said the order discriminated against Muslims.
Watson had ruled that there was "significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus" behind the revised ban, which targets people from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan; and suspends the US refugee program.
The Justice Department said in the court filings that Watson wrongly relied on Trump’s statements during the presidential campaign to conclude that his executive order was motivated by religious discrimination.
"The Order applies to all nationals of the listed countries, and all refugees from any country, regardless of anyone's religion," the DOJ said.
"To be sure, this Order has been the subject of heated debate. But the precedent set by this case will long transcend this Order, this President, and this constitutional moment," it added.
The administration also questioned Hawaii's authority to challenge the executive order.
Three judges on the 9th Circuit blocked Trump’s initial travel ban, but the DOJ said the president's revised order addressed their concerns.
Trump issued a revised travel ban after his first one sparked international protests and suffered several legal setbacks in courts that deemed it unconstitutional.
The Trump administration is also appealing a separate ruling by a Maryland judge blocking the ban on new visas in a different court.
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