Some immigration lawyers said the limited nature of the ban and the silence of the court's liberals on the issue Monday suggested that the court had not handed Trump much of a victory.
The court ruled that the Trump administration can begin to ban "foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity" from the half-dozen targeted Muslim-majority countries, but upheld lower courts' injunctions keeping the ban from going into place for anyone with ties to the USA until the Supreme Court hears full arguments on the ban in a few months.
The case was argued before an eight-justice court before Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed.
The justices granted parts of his administration's emergency request to put the March 6 executive order into effect immediately while the legal battle continues.
He said the Supreme Court's partial reinstatement of the travel ban means that they are giving the president the benefit of the doubt that this is a national security issue, and they are giving him the tools to keep the country safe.
The ban would apply to citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
"The order does not offer a sufficient justification to suspend the entry of more than 180 million people on the basis of nationality", the 9th Circuit judges wrote. Travelers with green cards and visas and refugees with strong USA ties, like a close family member or approval to study at an American university, will still be able to enter the country, but others won't.
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The ban cannot be used against people within the USA who have relationships with foreign nationals overseas - and whose rights could be affected if they were blocked from entering the country.
Examples of formal relationships include students accepted to U.S. universities and an employee who has accepted a job with a company in the USA, the court said.
Trump signed the order as a replacement for a January 27 order issued a week after he became president that also was blocked by federal courts.
Based on the same grounds, it also allowed the 120-day ban on all refugees entering the country to come into effect.
The decision is a win for the Republican leader, who has insisted the ban is necessary for national security, despite criticism that it singles out Muslims in violation of the U.S. constitution.
The administration has said the travel ban is needed to allow time to implement stronger vetting measures, although it has already rolled out some new requirements not blocked by courts, including additional questions for visa applicants. The revised order also jettisoned language that gave preferential status to persecuted religious minorities, which critics said could be taken as favoring Christians and other religious groups over Muslims.
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