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Virginia Judge Demands Evidence To Support Travel Ban

| by Robert Fowler

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema has challenged the Trump administration to produce compelling evidence to demonstrate the constitutionality of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. Brinkema is overseeing the state of Virginia's challenge of the executive order.

During a court session on Feb. 10, Brinkema blasted Trump's executive order placing a temporary ban on U.S. admittance of refugees and a travel freeze on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. The federal judge asserted that the order shows indications of executive overreach, according to The Washington Post.

"The courts have been begging you to provide some evidence, and none has been forthcoming," Brinkema told senior litigation counsel Erez Reuveni of the Justice Department's Office of Immigration Litigation, who is arguing on behalf of the government.

Virginia solicitor general Stuart Raphael represents the state's challenge of the executive order. A similar challenge issued by both Minnesota and Washington state resulted in a federal judge placing a national restraining order on the travel ban. On Feb. 9, the 9th Circuit Court ruled not to rescind the restraining order while the order continues to be challenged.

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Raphael argued in court that the executive order had negatively impacted Virginia's education system, citing that roughly 1,000 students and 66 educators "can't leave and know that they can come back."

Brinkema asserted that she would only consider the executive order itself, noting that its language extends to green card holders. While the Trump administration has since clarified that the order does not include permanent residents, the judge noted that guidance was not included in the order itself.

The judge told Reuveni that the executive order appeared to infringe on the U.S. freedom of religion, citing "some strong, colorful evidence that the motivations for this order may bump into the establishment clause of the First Amendment."

On the campaign trail, Trump had pledged to enact a Muslim ban, according to Politico.

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In December 2015, following a major terrorist attack in Paris, Trump proposed a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

Brinkema also asserted that there was evidence that State Department officials believe that the executive order hurt national security more than it helps.

The judge cited a letter signed by nearly 1,000 State Department staffers released on Jan. 31. The letter, also known as a dissent cable, was not released to the public but instead sent to government officials, USA Today reports.

"I don't have a scintilla of evidence from the respondents that counters this very powerful piece of evidence," Brinkema said. "Give me the evidence."

Reveni argued in court that a state could not challenge the White House on national security concerns. He also asserted that Trump's comments on the campaign trail should not be used as evidence against the merits of his executive order.

Brinkema concluded the hearing by noting that the 9th Circuit's ruling had cast a new light on proceedings.

In its written decision, the 9th Circuit asserted that the Trump administration had not provided evidence to prove that the travel ban was warranted, noting that no citizen of the listed countries had committed previous terrorist attacks in the U.S., CNN reports.

"The public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies ... the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination," the court ruled.

Sources: CNNPoliticoUSA TodayThe Washington Post / Photo Credit: Joe Gratz/Flickr

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