Rachel Weiner reports:
“’Judge Brinkema spells out a lot more; she really fleshes out one of the possible claims, and that’s the religious discrimination claim,’” said David Martin, a professor at the University of Virginia who, for many years, helped shape immigration policy inside the government. ‘That may well prove to be the strongest or more fruitful line of inquiry for the plaintiffs in these various cases, particularly if they’re trying to reach past green-card holders or people on immigrant visas. It’s hard to get there without a religious discrimination case of some kind.’”
. . . .
“’It was a very well-reasoned, thoughtful decision. Frankly, I think, a more careful decision than the 9th Circuit decision,’ said Steve Legomsky, former chief counsel for immigration services in the Department of Homeland Security. In her opinion, Legomsky said, Brinkema ‘pretty methodically went through the various statements by Trump. . . . They put great weight on the opinions of the former national security officials to show the absence of counterevidence from the Trump administration. For both of those reasons, I think the Virginia opinion is very important.’
Brinkema also brings to the case extensive national security experience. She presided over the trial of Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, among other high-profile cases.
‘It was a thoughtful opinion, it’s well considered, it wasn’t hastily done like some of these other decisions had to be in light of circumstances,’ said Justin Cox of the National Immigration Law Center. His group is involved in several lawsuits against the ban, including one filed in Maryland last week focused on refugees. That case is specifically focused on religious discrimination.
‘Legally [the Virginia ruling] is actually quite significant because it’s the first court to squarely hold that the executive order violates the establishment clause,’ Cox said.
The danger for opponents of the ban is that, should the Justice Department appeal Brinkema’s decision, they will face the more conservative 4th Circuit rather than the left-leaning 9th Circuit.
‘It would be a close call,’ Legomsky said. ‘There is such strong evidence of religious discrimination — it’s really hard to know.’”
As noted in this article, in addition to being leading academic “immigration gurus,” both Professor Martin and Professor Legomsky have lived in the “real world” of shaping Government policies and managing programs that actually implement those policies.
As they point out, while many of the objections to the “travel ban” could be eliminated by applying it just prospectively to those outside the U.S. who have not previously been admitted, that wouldn’t necessarily overcome Judge Brinkema’s finding that the “national security” reasons asserted by the Government in her court were merely “pretext” for unconstitutional religious discrimination.
While Justin Cox might be correct that the Fourth Circuit is not as liberal as the Ninth Circuit, that distinction probably would apply to every other Circuit Court of Appeals. Having spent 13 years as an Immigration Judge in Arlington, where my decisions ultimately could be reviewed by the Fourth Circuit and Fourth Circuit law applied, I found their immigration rulings very balanced. Indeed, they sometimes cited Ninth Circuit precedent and even were ahead of the Ninth in recognizing some migrants’ rights.
While the Fourth Circuit affirmed the overwhelming majority of BIA and Immigration Judge decisions in unpublished, non-precedential decisions, when they spoke in published precedents they always had important guidance to offer. The Fourth Circuit also was not afraid to stand up to the Government and “call them out” when necessary in the field of immigration.
And, at least in the Arlington Immigration Court, we trial judges paid close attention. I think that the Fourth Circuit’s very fair and well-reasoned asylum jurisprudence, in some significant ways more faithful to the asylum law and regulations than rulings of the BIA, was one reason why asylum applicants were often successful in Arlington. That’s also why many asylum cases in Arlington could be resolved by the parties in “short hearings” based on extensive written documentation and application of the Fourth Circuit law.
There is also a wonderful pastel portrait of Judge Brinkema in her court with the full article at the link. Check it out!