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9th Circuit Appeals Court largely upholds block on Trump's revised travel ban

13 Juin 2017

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously refused to lift the ban on Trump's plan to temporarily restrict travel from six Muslim-majority nations.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia last month cited the president's campaign statements calling for a "total and complete shutdown" on Muslims entering the U.S.as evidence that the 90-day ban was unconstitutionally "steeped in animus and directed at a single religious group", rather than necessary for national security.

Hawaii's Attorney General Doug Chin says a ruling that upholds the blocking of President Donald Trump's travel ban shows why the country has three branches of government. "We conclude that the President, in issuing the Executive Order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress", the judges said.

"President Trump knows that the country he has been elected to lead is threatened daily by terrorists who believe in a radical ideology, and that there are active plots to infiltrate the USA immigration system - just as occurred prior to 9/11", Sessions said in a statement.

On their part, the three judges sitting on the motions panel of the appellate court said "the President's authority is subject to certain statutory and constitutional restraints". It also did not provide any link between their nationality and their propensity to commit terrorism.

"Indeed, the President recently confirmed his assessment that it is the "countries" that are inherently risky, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries who are barred from entry under the President's 'travel ban, '" the judge wrote.

He also said the administration - which has already asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and reinstate the revised travel ban - looks forward to hearing from the high court on the issue.

The 9th Circuit did give the Trump administration a small win of sorts, ruling that Watson erred in restricting it from conducting an internal review to assess vetting procedures.

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She said she did not expect the Supreme Court to consider the case before the fall, making it hard for the administration to defend its argument that the travel ban was urgently needed.

It's the second appeals court decision in less than a month to maintain a nationwide stay on the ban.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Supreme Court will ultimately side with Trump. The refugee program is not at issue in the 4th Circuit case.

Lawyers for Hawaii told the Supreme Court Monday that letting the Trump administration enforce a ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries would "thrust the country back into the chaos and confusion" that resulted when the policy was first announced in January.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions insisted the new decision would harm national security - an argument the judges rejected. The administration has appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

At the heart of the Ninth Circuit opinion Monday is the panel's determination that the president had failed to show in his executive order that there was were specific national security justifications for excluding nationals of the six designated counties (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). The court cited the president's statements on Twitter declaring the order a Muslim ban, even as his attorneys argued to federal courts across the country that it was merely an exercise in "extreme vetting". "Unfortunately, this injunction prevents the president from fully carrying out his Article II duties and has a chilling effect on security operations overall".

He says "these are very unsafe times" and the US needs "every available tool at our disposal to prevent terrorists from entering the United States and committing acts of bloodshed and violence". In a footnote, they said they "need not address" claims of religious discrimination to rule on the injunction.

The 9th Circuit decision has another key difference from the 4th Circuit ruling: It also denies the White House's request to reinstate a temporary suspension of the refugee program, as well as a reduction in the number of refugees admitted in general.