WASHINGTON—Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland, who had previously blocked enforcement of the Trump administration’s initial ban on travel for virtually all nationals of several Muslim-majority countries, did the same thing today, blocking implementation of the third iteration of what many call the Muslim ban. PEN America, which led a group of artistic and cultural organizations against Muslim Ban 2.0, applauded the move.

The revised travel ban, which was to go into effect today, would have blocked virtually all travel to the United States of citizens from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Chad. The administration tacked on certain government officials from Venezuela and the very small number of annual travelers from North Korea to the ban. Citizens of Iraq were to face enhanced security measures.

Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii and Theodore D. Chuang of Maryland both found that the revised travel ban suffered from the same failings as its predecessor, namely that it plainly discriminated based on nationality, and that it would simultaneously bar “safe” travelers from the singled-out countries while permitting entry of potentially dangerous travelers from other countries.

“There can’t be a fortress America when it comes to literature and art,” said Gabe Rottman, PEN America Washington director. “The social value of culture comes from its ability to break down barriers of nationality and religion, to show our shared humanity. That’s a basic American value, and one of which we should be proud. Today’s rulings reflect exactly that.”

The revised travel ban would have even more dire consequences for artistic and cultural exchanges. The Supreme Court had narrowed ban 2.0 to allow for travel when an individual had a “bona fide” connection to the United States, which expressly included invitations to artistic or cultural events, such as PEN America’s World Voices literary festival. Iteration 3.0 of the ban only permits waivers on a case-by-case basis, and at the broad discretion of an administration with an explicit record of animus toward Muslims.

PEN America led efforts to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court challenging the previous iteration of the Muslim ban, signed by almost 30 artistic and cultural groups, including the Sundance Institute, the Performing Arts Alliance, and Americans for the Arts.  The court found that challenge “moot” when the administration released ban 3.0.  Challenges to the current version will now work their way through the courts.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Sarah Edkins Lien, Director of Communications: [email protected], +1 646-779-4830