A large crowd rallies on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, led by top Democrat lawmakers, to denounce President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigration from 7 Muslim-majority countries, on January 30, 2017. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

A federal appellate court on Monday handed President Donald Trump his second major defeat in a month after finding his executive order suspending immigration from six Muslim nations and the U.S. refugee program violated federal law.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in an unsigned opinion in Hawaii v. Trump, held that the executive order exceeded Trump’s authority under federal immigration law. That decision comes less than a month after the Fourth Circuit, on different grounds, upheld an injunction stopping the order from taking effect in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump.

“The Immigration and Nationality Act gives the president broad powers to control the entry of aliens, and to take actions to protect the American public. But immigration, even for the president, is not a one-person show,” the panel wrote.

The full Fourth Circuit, in a 10-3 decision, ruled that the executive order was unconstitutional religious discrimination. But the three Ninth Circuit judges—all Clinton appointees—said Monday that it was not necessary to address the constitutional question if the case could be decided on statutory grounds.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the government’s requests that the Hawaii and Fourth Circuit injunctions be lifted. The government also has asked the high court grant review to the government’s appeal of the Fourth Circuit decision.

The Ninth Circuit panel said Trump did not meet “the essential precondition” to exercising the authority that Congress gave him under federal immigration law. The president, the judges said, did not “make a sufficient finding that the entry of these classes of people would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’”

The panel said the order “runs afoul of other provisions of the [Immigration and Nationality Act] that prohibit nationality-based discrimination and require the president to follow a specific process when setting the annual cap on the admission of refugees.”

The panel upheld most of an injunction issued by a Hawaii federal district judge, but found the judge abused his discretion in enjoining the president himself and internal agency review procedures.

Ruling were Judges Michael Hawkins, Ronald Gould and Richard Paez.

Copyright the National Law Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.