A U.S. government attorney said on May 15 that President Donald Trump's revised travel ban did not unfairly target Muslims, as a panel of federal judges weighed the legality of the order.
Three judges from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle were considering Trump's challenge of a judge's order blocking his ban on refugees and nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, as a crowd rallied in protest at the contested immigration ban.
A Hawaii-based judge in March issued a preliminary injunction -- which applies nationwide -- against the order on grounds that it was motivated by an anti-Muslim bias.
The Trump administration says the temporary ban, which affects the citizens of Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, is motivated by national security concerns.
The scope of Trump's revised ban, signed in early March, was reduced from his original January effort, which blocked travelers from seven-majority Muslim countries, including Iraq, as well as all refugees.
The government's lawyer Jeffrey Wall reiterated on May 15 that Trump had clarified over time that "what he was talking about was Islamic terrorist groups and the countries that sponsor or shelter them."
Wall also argued that the ban was not based on religion.
Neal Katyal, the attorney representing Hawaii, told the judges that Trump clearly was singling out Muslims.
Katyal said Congress had set rules on vetting foreigners before they enter the United States and Trump could not claim sweeping powers and take a "magic eraser" to long-standing policies.
Based on reporting by AFP and AP