A US District Court judge in the District of Maryland issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on March 15, 2017, partially blocking implementation of Executive Order 13780, signed by President Donald Trump on March 6, 2017, titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The Executive Order was scheduled to be implemented on Thursday, March 16.

In response to the plaintiffs’ motion in International Refugee Assistance Project, et al., vs. Donald J. Trump, et. al., US District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang issued a 43-page decision, enjoining, nationwide, Section 2(c) of the Executive Order. Section 2(c) would temporarily suspend for 90 days the entry into the United States of certain nationals of six countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Judge Chuang drew a distinction between Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which contains seemingly broad authority for the president to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants,” and the more explicit language of INA Section 202(a), which bars discrimination on the basis of “race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence” in the issuance of immigrant visas.

In finding that the plaintiffs were “likely to be able to establish that section 2(c) of the Second Executive Order violates the Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment, Judge Chuang stated that, “[t]he removal of the preference for religious minorities in the refugee system, which was the only explicit reference to religion in the First Executive Order, does not cure the Second Executive Order of Establishment Clause concerns. Crucially, the core policy outcome of a blanket ban on entry of nationals from the Designated Countries remains. When President Trump discussed his planned Muslim ban, he described not the preference for religious minorities, but the plan to ban the entry of nationals from certain dangerous countries as a means to carry out the Muslim ban. These statements thus continue to explain the religious purpose behind the travel ban in the Second Executive Order.”