Trump loses appeal bid to reinstate travel ban
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court refused Thursday to reinstate President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
The panel of three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to block a lower-court ruling that suspended the ban and allowed previously barred travellers to enter the U.S. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.
U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban last week after Washington state and Minnesota sued. The ban had temporarily suspended the nation’s refugee program and immigration from countries that have raised terrorism concerns.
Justice Department lawyers appealed to the 9th Circuit, arguing that the president has the constitutional power to restrict entry to the United States and that the courts cannot second-guess his determination that such a step was needed to prevent terrorism.
The states said Trump’s travel ban harmed individuals, businesses and universities. Citing Trump’s campaign promise to stop Muslims from entering the U.S., they said the ban unconstitutionally blocked entry to people based on religion.
Both sides faced tough questioning during an hour of arguments Tuesday conducted by phone — an unusual step — and broadcast live on cable networks, newspaper websites and social media. It attracted a huge audience.
The judges hammered away at the administration’s claim the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but they also challenged the states’ argument that it targeted Muslims.
“I have trouble understanding why we’re supposed to infer religious animus when, in fact, the vast majority of Muslims would not be affected,” Judge Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush nominee, asked an attorney representing Washington state and Minnesota.
Only 15 per cent of the world’s Muslims are affected by the executive order, the judge calculated.
“Has the government pointed to any evidence connecting these countries to terrorism?” Judge Michelle T. Friedland, who was appointed by Barack Obama, asked the Justice Department attorney.
The Supreme Court has a vacancy, and there’s no chance Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, will be confirmed in time to take part in any consideration of the ban.
The ban was set to expire in 90 days, meaning it could run its course before the court would take up the issue. The administration also could change the order, including changing its scope or duration.