Donald Trump

See you in court’: Trump slams ruling against US travel ban

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 7:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 5:22pm

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has refused to reinstate US President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday wouldn’t block a lower-court ruling that suspended the ban and allowed previously barred travellers to enter the US. An appeal to the US Supreme Court is now likely, with Trump responding in an all-capitals tweet: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

The San Francisco-based appeals court spurned the government’s request to close the doors after days of public debate over President Donald Trump’s attacks on the judicial system and a rush of fearful immigrants. The ruling increases the likelihood that the administration will ask the Supreme Court to step into a case that’s the biggest test of Trump’s executive power yet.

The pubic “has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination,” a three-judge panel said in a unanimous 29-page ruling.

The panel’s ruling in favour of immigrants is a victory not only for Washington and Minnesota - the states that sued - but for Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft, which said in court papers that the measure would hinder their global businesses.

“We hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury,” the panel of two Democratic appointees and a Republican unanimously decided in an unsigned opinion.

“We therefore deny (the government’s) emergency motion for a stay,” the court said.

The measure has engendered lawsuits from coast to coast that present early and crucial tests of the president’s unilateral ability to decide who threatens the nation. Opponents of the ban argue it violates due process and equal-protection rights, and runs afoul of the First Amendment’s prohibition of favour for any one religion.

US District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban last week after Washington state and Minnesota sued. The Justice Department appealed to the 9th Circuit.

Government lawyers argued that the ban was a “lawful exercise” of the president’s authority and that the seven countries have raised terrorism concerns.

The states said Trump’s executive order unconstitutionally blocked entry based on religion.

Since US District Judge James Robart temporarily blocked Trump’s ban, refugees and travellers have been rushing to the US. The executive order had set off chaos as states, companies, universities, citizens and refugees struggled with the ramifications.

On Wednesday, Trump read a law that gives the president authority to stop the entry of “any class” of foreigner.

“You can suspend, you can put restrictions, you can do whatever you want,” Trump told a conference of police chiefs and sheriffs in Washington. “It just can’t be written any plainer or better.”

Since the ruling, the president, a 70-year-old Republican, has sent Twitter messages excoriating Robart as a “so-called judge.”

Trump’s order bars Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocks for 120 days all others fleeing their homelands claiming persecution or fear of violence. No citizens of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya or Sudan could enter the US for 90 days.

Administration lawyers have argued that the country could be at risk of a terrorist attack until heightened vetting measures for travelers from those countries are put into place.

In the first appellate court ruling on the controversial travel ban, the court rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the courts lacked the right to review the president’s executive order. “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the panel said.

“Indeed, federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of—and even invalidate—actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict,” the panel added.

The court said the states were likely to succeed in their due process claim, noting that the due process protections provided under the Constitution apply not only to citizens, but to all “aliens” in the country as well, as well as “certain aliens attempting to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad.”

The judges also said they took note of the “serious nature” of the states’ claim that the travel ban, because it targets Muslim-majority nations and provides exceptions for members of persecuted religious minorities, constitutes religious discrimination.

“Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit not only upheld a federal court ruling that placed a temporary nationwide halt to President Trump’s Muslim ban, it also upheld long-treasured American values of the rule of law and liberty and equality for all, regardless of religion,” Farhana Khera, executive director of civil rights group Muslim Advocates, which has filed a brief in the case, said in a statement.

The Trump administration can appeal the decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has four Democratic appointees and four Republican appointees and may be unable to reach a majority decision. The seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia remains vacant.

A 4-4 tie would see Robart’s original ruling remain in place, and the failure to have the ban reinstated.