US travel ban faces another court setback, Donald Trump calls ruling ‘political’
The justice department, which is litigating the case for the federal government, said in a statement it was “reviewing the decision and considering its options”.world Updated: Feb 13, 2017 11:16 IST
In a major setback to the Donald Trump administration, an appeals court on Thursday rejected its plea to overturn a lower court’s stay on the president’s executive order barring visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States.
In a 29-page order, the three-judge panel of the ninth circuit court of appeals ruled unanimously that the government had not been able to establish the merits of the appeal or shown how the refusal to remove the stay could cause irreparable damage.
The president’s first response came in a post on Twitter, in all-caps: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”. He followed that up by telling reporters that the ruling was political.
The justice department, which is litigating the case for the federal government, said in a statement it was “reviewing the decision and considering its options”.
The administration could take the appeal to a larger bench of the ninth circuit, but that may lead to a similar result as it is considered to be the most liberal of the appellate courts in the country, according to legal experts.
The administration could, alternatively, takes its appeal straight to the Supreme Court, which at this time is one short of its sanctioned strength of nine and is tilting left under the weight of four liberal justices, against three conservatives and one swing.
Another option, suggested by some experts, was for the president to swallow his pride, tear up this executive order, write a fresh one, fixing problems pointed out by the district court that stayed the order first and the appeals court that upheld it.
Trump issued an executive order on January 24, in his first week in office, banning visa-holders from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Libya from entering the US for 90 days; and all refugees for 120 days — indefinitely for Syrians.
The suspension was meant to give the administration time to put in place “extreme vetting” procedures, which Trump had promised as a candidate, to prevent “bad dudes” from entering the country with the intention of carrying out terrorist attacks.
The order went into effect immediately, without advance notice or warning, leading to many visa-holders from these countries being detained at US airports on arrival or prevented from boarding US-bound flights at airports outside.
The order became known around the world as a Muslim-ban, despite vigorous push-back from the Trump administration, which argued, inexplicably, it wasn’t even a ban, when the president himself had used the word to describe the order.
Opposition to the travel ban, as it’s called now, started almost at the same time as reports about its first victims, two Iraqi refugees detained for deportation at JFK in New York. Civil rights group American Civil Liberties Union challenged the detention, and won.
More lawsuits followed as protests broke out at, and inside, airports around the country and at the White House. Even President Barack Obama weighed in in favor of protestors and spoke out against the travel ban.
A district federal court in Seattle, Washington state struck the first blow to the order, staying its operation around the country — it’s a federal court with countrywide powers — allowing hundreds and thousands of stranded visa holders into the country.
The judge, James Robarts, became both an international celebrity and a target, overnight. Trump disparaged him as a “so-called judge”, seeking to discredit personally a judge appointed by a Republican president, George W Bush.
That order plunged Trump’s days-old presidency into its first major crisis, preceded already by a few of lower intensity, halting his ban, which, he argued repeatedly was meant only to protect the country from “bad dudes”.
It was an easy action to comprehend, even for school-going children, and expressed confidence his lawyers would have it overturned. A court in Boston had, after all, agreed with him and upheld the order before Robarts rendered it void hours later.
And now the appeals court.