A federal appeals court has maintained the freeze on President Trump’s controversial immigration order, meaning previously barred refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries can continue entering the U.S.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the ruling of U.S. District Judge James Robart, who had decided Friday that Trump’s temporary travel ban should be put on hold. The Department of Homeland Security soon suspended all enforcement of Trump’s controversial directive.
The Justice Department, representing the Trump administration, could now ask the Supreme Court — which often defers to the president on matters of immigration and national security — to intervene. The Supreme Court, though, remains one justice short, and many see it as ideologically split 4-4. A tie would keep in place whatever the appeals court decides.
A Justice Department lawyer, representing the Trump administration, and Washington state’s solicitor general, representing the opposition, made their final pitches to the appeals court Tuesday at a contentious hearing. Both sides faced skeptical questioning, and the panel seemed particularly interested in what evidence Trump relied upon in implementing his order, and what limits the Justice Department saw on the president’s authority to set immigration policy.
Yemeni brothers Ammar and Tareq Aquel Mohammad Aziz reunite with their father in the United States on February 6th. The brothers had been stranded in Addis Ababa and Djibouti after their visas were revoked when President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)
Judge Michelle Taryn Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, asked a Justice Department lawyer if the government had “pointed to any evidence connecting these countries with terrorism.”
Judge Richard Clifton, a President George W. Bush appointee, noted that the government already had processes in place to screen people coming from those countries and asked, “Is there any reason for us to think that there’s a real risk or that circumstances have changed such that there’s a real risk?”
“The president determined that there was a real risk,” responded the August E. Flentje, the Justice Department lawyer.
Washington state Solicitor General Noah Purcell asserted that reinstating the ban would “throw the country back into chaos,” and he pleaded with judges to maintain the status quo of the past several days. He asserted that Trump’s order was intentionally discriminatory, pointing to public statements from Trump and his allies as evidence.
Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, for example, recently said: “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said: ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’ ” On the campaign trail, Trump himself called for a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S.
Federal immigration law undeniably gives the president broad authority to bar people from coming into the U.S., stating that if the president finds “the entry of any aliens” would be “detrimental” to the country’s interests, he can impose restrictions. But lawsuits across the country have alleged that Trump’s particular order ran afoul of the Constitution in that it intentionally disfavored Muslims.
Flentje did offer the judges a fallback option: they could, he said, limit Robart’s order so that it only applied to foreigners previously admitted to the country who were abroad now or those who wished to travel and return to the United States in the future. Purcell said the government had not demonstrated how they could practically implement such a solution.
Trump and his supporters have pressed the case that the short-term stoppage on refugees and immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen is necessary for national security reasons. Trump went so far as to suggest on Twitter that if an attack were to happen, the judiciary were to blame. On Wednesday, he denounced arguments about his order as “disgraceful” and said “a bad high school student” would understand the broad authority the law gives him to impose immigration restrictions.
A day earlier, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress he thought judges might be considering the issue from an “academic” perspective instead of the national security lens through which he views the world.
“Of course, in their courtrooms, they’re protected by people like me,” Kelly said.
Federal courts in New York, California and elsewhere already had blocked aspects of the ban from being implemented, although one federal judge in Massachusetts declared that he did not think that challengers had demonstrated that they had a high likelihood of success.
The case before the 9th Circuit, though, was much broader than the others, because it stemmed from a federal judge’s outright halting of the ban. It was decided by Friedland, Clifton, and Judge William C. Canby Jr., who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.
This article was originally published in The Washington Post. Read more at The Post: