International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, No. 19-1990 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs alleged that Proclamation 9645, which imposed certain restrictions on the entry of individuals from eight countries, violates their rights under the Establishment Clause, as well as under other clauses of the Constitution, because it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate national security concerns and is motivated solely by anti-Muslim animus.
The government filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaints for failure to state a claim based mainly on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Trump v. Hawaii, 138 S. Ct. 2392 (2018), which reversed a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Proclamation 9645 that had been issued on facts that are essentially the same as those alleged here. The Hawaii Court held that the government had "set forth a sufficient national security justification to survive rational basis review" and thus plaintiffs had not demonstrated that they were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims.
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and held that the district court misunderstood the import of the Supreme Court's decision in Hawaii and the legal principles it applied. The court held that Proclamation 9645 restricts the entry of foreign nationals from specified countries, giving reasons for doing so that are related to national security, and it makes no reference to religion. In this case, although the district court agreed that the Mandel standard is controlling, it failed to apply the standard of review properly, moving past the face of the Proclamation to consider in its analysis external statements made by President Trump. The court proceeded beyond consideration of only the facially stated purposes of Proclamation 9645 and determined whether plaintiffs have alleged plausible constitutional claims under the rational basis standard of review. Under the rational basis standard, plaintiffs' constitutional claims failed because the Proclamation was plausibly related to the Government's stated objective to protect the country and improve vetting processes. The court remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaints.