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Appeals Court Won't Reinstate Trump's Travel Ban

Travel ban blocked

The ban isn't dead yet, but it remains on hold.

A federal appeals court today refused to reinstate Donald Trump's executive order banning entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries and suspending the nation's refugee program.

U.S. District Judge James Robart had stopped enforcement of the order nationwide last week, after the states of Washington and Minnesota filed suit against it. The Trump administration, through the Department of Justice, had sought to have Robart's ruling put on hold while it continued to defend the executive order in court. But the California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the request, in a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel.

The Justice Department could now take its appeal of Robart's ruling to the Supreme Court, agree to scale back the travel ban, or argue the merits of the ban before Robart, USA Today reports. The department, headed by newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, issued a statement saying it was "reviewing the decision and considering its options."

"But Trump clearly indicated more appeals are coming," USA Today notes, as he tweeted the following:

Trump's order, issued January 27, blocked entry to the U.S. for 90 days by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. It also suspended entry by refugees from Syria indefinitely and other refugees for 120 days.

It resulted in chaos at airports, as green-card holders and visitors with visas were detained, and protesters and lawyers swept in to defend and assist them. Soon after Robart's ruling, the State Department restored visas that had been canceled, and the Department of Homeland Security stopped enforcing the order.

In declining to restore the travel ban, the Ninth Circuit found that the states challenging it are likely to prevail in court, and that no irreparable harm would be done by letting it remain blocked, the Los Angeles Times reports. The judges also rejected the Justice Department's assertion that the president has "unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens," so therefore courts did not have the right to review the executive order.

"There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy. ... 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 Ninth Circuit panel wrote.

The judges said, however, that they would "reserve consideration" of the states' claims that the travel restrictions specifically targeted Muslims and therefore amounted to religious discrimination. During oral arguments Tuesday, conducted by phone, Ninth Circuit Judge Richard Clifton estimated that the order affected only 15 percent of the world's Muslims, the Associated Press reports. But in their ruling, the judges did take note of the "serious nature" of the religious discrimination claim.

Several other states have sued over the ban, and additional suits are still being filed, the Times reports.

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