A federal appeals court on Thursday largely left in place the freeze on President Donald Trump’s revised entry ban, handing the administration another legal blow in its efforts to block the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim majority countries.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

In its 10 to 3 decision, the Richmond, Va.-based court said the president’s broad immigration power to deny entry into the U.S. is not absolute.

“It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory, and joined in part by nine other judges.

The 4th Circuit declined to lift an order from a Maryland federal judge, who ruled against the travel ban in March and sided with opponents who said the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. The ruling leaves the injunction in place and means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

Even if the appeals court had sided with the Trump administration, the president’s order would have remained on hold because of a separate opinion from a federal judge in Hawaii. To put the ban in motion, the Justice Department would also have had to win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard oral arguments on May 15 in the government’s appeal of the Hawaii decision.


The losing side in either case is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Federal immigration law gives the president broad powers when it comes to restricting entry into the U.S. by foreigners, and government lawyers urged the court to defer to the president and not second guess his judgment.

But the ruling from the 4th Circuit was the latest in a series of legal setbacks for the administration. President Trump rewrote the entry ban after the 9th Circuit in February refused to lift an earlier injunction.

The revised version would temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to travelers from the six countries while the administration reviews its screening process.

During oral arguments this month, many of the 4th Circuit judges expressed doubts about the viability of the president’s order. They questioned whether there was a link between barring of citizens from the six countries identified by the administration and ensuring U.S. security.

Several judges also pointed to the president’s campaign promise to bar Muslims from entry and subsequent statements. They suggested that the court should not ignore those comments when determining whether the order violates the Constitution. The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from denigrating a particular religion.

American Civil Liberties Attorney, Omar Jadwat, gestures as he speaks after a hearing before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, Monday, May 8, 2017. The court was examining a ruling that blocks the administration from temporarily barring new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It’s the first time an appeals court heard arguments on the revised travel ban, which is likely destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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