People protest against the new travel restrictions near the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Oct. 18, 2017. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Federal judges in U.S. states of Maryland and Hawaii have blocked President Donald Trump's latest travel ban before the controversial order was due to take effect on Wednesday, the third time the administration's proposed travel restrictions have been put on hold by courts.
District Judge Theodore Chuang in Greenbelt, Maryland said in a ruling Tuesday that the administration had "not shown that national security cannot be maintained without an unprecedented eight-country travel ban."
Trump signed a presidential order late September that would ban most nationals of Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from entering the United States. It would also restrict travel by certain Venezuelan government officials and their families.
Chuang said Trump's comments as a presidential candidate on Muslims and his tweets related to the ban helped convince him that the newest travel rules are an unconstitutional example of discrimination against Muslims.
He also said the government in court had provided no evidence of a threat "justifying a ban on entire nationalities."
Chuang's ruling came on the heels of a similar order from District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu on the ground of what the federal judge said a violation of immigration law by Trump's ban.
Watson said the travel ban, which was designed to be permanent, "plainly discriminated based on nationality," accusing it of "suffering from precisely the same maladies" as the previous versions.
"The categorical restrictions on entire populations of men, women and children, based upon nationality, are a poor fit for the issues regarding the sharing of 'public-safety and terrorism-related information' that the president identifies," Watson wrote in his 40-page ruling.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the ruling "dangerously flawed" in a statement Tuesday following the Watson's decision.
It "undercuts the president's efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States," Sanders added.
The Justice Department said it would quickly appeal. "Today's ruling is incorrect, fails to properly respect the separation of powers, and has the potential to cause serious negative consequences for our national security," spokesman Ian D. Prior said in a statement on the Hawaii ruling.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed that the administration would take the case to the Supreme Court to defend what he called "a lawful and necessary order."
"We're confident that we will prevail as time goes by in the Supreme Court," he said Wednesday when speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In both Maryland and Hawaii, the judges limited their rulings to travelers from the six Muslim-majority countries on the administration's latest list.
Restrictions on travel from the DPRK and Venezuela, both of which are not predominate Muslim, would not be affected. Critics said their inclusion on that list may have been used to avoid discrimination allegations.
The latest ban has been the third of its kind Trump has issued since taking office. Several U.S. federal courts overturned all or parts of his first and second travel bans.
In January, Trump signed an executive order to suspend the country's refugee program for 120 days and ban travelers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days. The move triggered protests at international airports both at home and abroad.
The president issued a revised executive order in March blocking new visas for 90 days for people from six of the seven originally-listed countries, excluding Iraq.
The third travel ban were challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups and immigrant advocates, as well as multiple states.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the White House on Wednesday in protest at the administration's third travel ban.