U.S. Court Of Appeals Refuses To Reinstate Trump's Travel Ban

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The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to reinstate President Trump's executive order banning travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. The ruling was unanimous.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban after lawsuits were brought by Minnesota and Washington state. The ban temporarily suspended the nation's refugee program and immigration from countries that have raised terrorism concerns, according to the administration. (None of the perpetrators in any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil over the last 15 years have come from the banned countries.)

Justice Department lawyers appealed to the 9th Circuit, arguing that the president has the constitutional power to restrict entry to the United States and that the courts cannot second-guess his determination that such a step was needed to prevent terrorism.

The states argued that Trump's travel ban harmed individuals, businesses, and universities. Citing Trump's campaign promise to stop Muslims from entering the U.S., they said the ban was unconstitutional on the grounds that it blocks individuals based on religion.

Both sides faced tough questioning during an hour of arguments Tuesday conducted by phone — an unusual occurrence — and broadcast live on cable networks, newspaper websites, and social media. It attracted a huge audience.

The judges hammered away at the administration's claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but they also challenged the states' argument that it targeted Muslims.

"I have trouble understanding why we're supposed to infer religious animus when, in fact, the vast majority of Muslims would not be affected," Judge Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush nominee, said to an attorney representing Washington state and Minnesota.

Only 15% of the world's Muslims are affected by the executive order, the judge said, citing his own calculations.

"Has the government pointed to any evidence connecting these countries to terrorism?" Judge Michelle T. Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, asked the Justice Department attorney.

In the lower-court case, Robart, the Seattle judge, halted the ban after determining that the states were likely to prevail, and had demonstrated that the ban would restrict travel by their residents, damage their public universities, and reduce their tax base. His ruling effectively put the executive order on hold while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

After that ruling, the State Department retreated, allowing people from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — with valid visas to resume travel to the U.S. The decision led to tearful reunions at airports round the country.

An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.

However, the Supreme Court has a vacancy, and there's no possibility that Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch, will be confirmed in time to preside over the case. That could result in a 4-4 split among the other sitting judges, which would automatically leave the 9th Circuit Court's ruling intact.

President Trump has not yet issued a formal statement on the court's decision, but did post this tweet minutes after the ruling was announced:
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