President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration has been met with another setback following a U.S. district judge's ruling that embattled travel ban is in violation of the First Amendment.
On Feb. 13, Judge Leonie Brinkema of Virginia ruled that Trump's executive order was unconstitutional and placed a preliminary injunction on the travel ban in her state. In her written statement, Brinkema ruled that the order amounted to religious discrimination.
Signed on Jan. 27, Trump's executive action had placed a travel freeze on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order had also placed a temporary halt on U.S. admittance of refugees with an additional indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.
Brinkema ruled that lawyers from the Department of Justice had not produced compelling evidence to prove that the executive action was beneficial to national security. In her written opinion, the federal judge asserted that previous comments made by Trump provided ample evidence that the travel ban was based on religion.
"The 'Muslim ban' was a centerpiece of the president's campaign for months," Brinkema wrote.
Professor Nelson Tebbe of Brooklyn Law School noted to Reuters that Brinkema's ruling will be considered by other judges in future litigation on the executive order. He concluded that her ruling will be a dramatic setback for the travel ban because the federal judge had asserted that the "evidence indicates the government's purpose was based on religion."
Brinkema also listed a recent interview of former Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City as evidence that the executive order was intended as a religious test.
On Jan. 28, Giuliani asserted that Trump had personally asked him how to draft an executive action that would achieve his campaign promise of imposing a Muslim ban.
"So when [Trump] first announced it, he said 'Muslim ban,'" Giuliani told Fox News. "He called me up. He said, 'Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.'"
Brinkema also chastised the DOJ lawyers for arguing in court that the president's executive authority was sufficient reason to uphold the order instead of producing evidence of its merits, the BBC reports.
"Maximum power does not mean absolute power," Brinkema wrote, adding that even presidents must comply with the Constitution.
U.S. District Judge James Robart of Washington state had already placed a national restraining order against the executive order. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against lifting the restraining order while the executive action undergoes further review.
The Trump administration has signaled that the president may sign a new executive order on immigration instead of defending the current one in court. On Feb. 12, Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller, who helped draft the original executive action, said that all options were on the table.
"We are contemplating new and additional actions ... to ensure our immigration system is not a vehicle for terrorists," Miller told Fox News.