While the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld, in the most scathing possible terms, a preliminary injunction blocking President Trump’s travel ban, the court barely referenced the order’s 120-day suspension all refugee resettlement and made no ruling on it. That issue will be examined by the Ninth Circuit appeals court, after a US district court in Hawaii issued a broader injunction that also blocked the suspension of resettlement.
But does the Fourth Circuit ruling have any relevance to the question of refugee resettlement?
The crux of the ruling was that the travel ban order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” It cited many statements from Trump, advisors and representatives to show the executive order “invokes national security in bad faith, as a pretext for what really is an anti-Muslim religious purpose.”
The legal contexts differ, but in discussing the travel ban the Fourth Circuit said that Trump’s statements on refugee resettlement “would give preference to Christian refugees.” In particular, it cited his interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, where Trump said that Christians have been “horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in…And I thought it was very, very, unfair. So we are going to help them.” In concurring with the majority opinion, Judge Stephanie Thacker added the last two sentences of Trump’s quote and the emphasis on the final word, and went on to say, “The statements of the President, his advisor, and the text…made crystal clear a primary purpose of disfavoring Islam and promoting Christianity.”
We don’t know yet whether Trump’s blatant discriminatory intent will lead the courts to strike down his suspension of refugee resettlement; the Ninth Circuit will take that question up soon. But, however the legal issues in that case are decided, we should remember that in principled terms, the Fourth Circuit’s eloquent denunciation of the President’s travel ban serves just as well to demolish his cynical attack on refugee resettlement.