The Trump administration’s controversial travel ban, which indefinitely bars most travelers and immigrants from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States, can be implemented in its current form while pending legal challenges to it are resolved, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday. According to the Washington Post, “in an unsigned opinion Monday that did not disclose the court’s reasoning, the justices lifted the injunctions” against the ban put in place by two federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland:
The justices said they expected the federal judges reviewing challenges to the order — based on what challengers say are Trump’s animus toward Muslims and lack of authority under immigration laws — to handle the cases with “appropriate dispatch.”’ … The orders from the two district judges will be reviewed this week. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is set to consider the Hawaii case Wednesday, and the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond will consider the Maryland judge’s decision Friday.
Monday’s ruling does not mean the ban will survive its ongoing court battles, but it does suggest that if the federal judges do attempt to knock it down, the administration will petition the Supreme Court for a reversal of their rulings and may win that case.
Last month, the Trump administration introduced a revised, expanded, and non-time-limited version of the temporary travel ban the government had sought to impose on nationals of several countries in March. The original travel ban was blocked by two separate federal judges who ruled it discriminatory, particularly against Muslims. Those injunctions were partly lifted by the US Supreme Court when it agreed to hear the case against the travel ban in June. The new ban issued in September was meant to address some of these legal issues, and subtracted Iraq from the list while adding two non-Muslim majority countries, North Korea and Venezuela. The new ban also applies different sets of restrictions to different countries.
The same two federal judges, however, ruled that these differences were insufficient to defeat claims of discrimination. US District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii largely shot down the new ban on Tuesday in a ruling that restricts the administration from barring travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, and Somalia, but leaves in place the limited restrictions it imposed on travel from North Korea and Venezuela, the Washington Post reported:
In a 40-page decision granting the state of Hawaii’s request for a temporary restraining order, Watson wrote that the latest ban “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’” He also wrote that the executive order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that was opposed to federal law and “the founding principles of this Nation.”
Later on Tuesday, Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland also issued a ruling blocking the ban from applying to travelers with bona fide ties to a US person or business, Politico reports, following a guideline devised by the Supreme Court in June.
The new ban was scheduled to go into effect today, October 18, but will now have to pass yet another court challenge. The Supreme Court canceled its scheduled hearing on the previous ban last month and asked attorneys for the government and the challengers in the case of the previous travel ban to submit briefs addressing “whether, or to what extent, the proclamation” moots the existing case. If the high court does declare that case moot, however, the government’s appeal of these new challenges could put the issue back on their agenda soon.
The US has announced a series of new travel restrictions on citizens of eight countries—Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen—in accordance with an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that replaces the controversial, temporary “travel ban” enacted earlier this year. The restrictions, which will be phased in starting next month, will vary by country: North Koreans and Syrians will be banned from coming to the U.S. as immigrants or non-immigrants, for example, while immigration is suspended from Chad, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, but some non-immigrant travel will be allowed, while the restrictions on Venezuela apply only to certain government officials there. Those who are allowed in from countries like Iran and Somalia will be subject to enhanced security vetting.
Unlike the original travel ban issued in March, which was to apply for a fixed period of 90 days, the new ban has no set end date, and the administration has said the lifting of these restrictions will be conditional on these countries adopting US-approved procedures for vetting travelers. The previous ban also suspended the admission of refugees; this order does not address refugees, but a forthcoming order is expected to announce a new, lower cap on the number of refugees the US will admit in the coming year.
Consular officers will have discretion to waive the restrictions on a case-by-case basis, if individuals can prove that it would cause them undue hardship to be denied admission to the US and are not a security threat. The previous ban had been blocked in court until the Supreme Court ruled that it could be implemented in part, with exceptions for foreign nationals who had a “bona fide relationship” with a US person or entity.
Shortly after taking office in January, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days and also freezing the admission of all refugees for 120 days, in what some interpret as an attempt to partly fulfill his campaign pledge of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The order caused chaos at airports and was immediately subjected to numerous legal challenges, leading Trump to withdraw the order and replace it with a slightly less restrictive version in March, targeting only six countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen), and removing an indefinite ban on the admission of Syrian refugees, among other changes.
That ban, too, was quickly challenged in court, and two federal judges issued temporary restraining orders blocking it from coming into effect. The Fourth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal subsequently upheld those injunctions, at which point the Trump Administration said it would seek a ruling on the travel ban from the Supreme Court. On Monday, the last day of its session, the high court announced that it would hear arguments in October in the cases brought against the ban in federal courts in Hawaii and Maryland, NPR reports. In the meantime, the court lifted the injunctions against the ban, but with a key caveat:
The justices removed the lower courts’ injunctions against the ban “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” narrowing the scope of two injunctions that had put the ban in limbo. … The travel ban will remain on hold for plaintiffs who challenged the executive order and for anyone who is “similarly situated,” the justices say — in other words, foreign nationals who have relatives in the U.S., or who plan to attend school or work here.
Refugees will face similar criteria, with anyone lacking connections in the U.S. denied entry. In its order, the court stated, “the balance tips in favor of the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security.”
According to a presidential memorandum issued earlier this month, the ban is set to go into effect 72 hours after the injunctions against it were lifted, meaning it will be in force as early as Thursday, unless the administration chooses for some reason to delay it further.
While US President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily barring refugees and migrants from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US remains in limbo after two federal judges blocked it from going into effect earlier this month, cables issued last week by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reveal another means by which the Trump administration is working to fulfill the president’s campaign pledge to severely tighten US immigration controls.
According to the New York Times, the series of four cables sent between March 10 and March 17 include instructions to officials at US embassies around the world to immediately convene security and intelligence working groups to devise criteria for “post-applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.” Officials are also directed to scrutinize a broader pool of visa applicants for potential security threats, “asking applicants detailed questions about their background and making mandatory checks of social media history if a person has ever been in territory controlled by the Islamic State”:
Mr. Trump has spoken regularly of his concern about the threat of “radical Islamic terrorism” from immigrants. But it is unclear who, exactly, will be targeted for the extra scrutiny since Mr. Tillerson’s cables leave that decision up to security officers at each embassy.
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Under new security restrictions announced by the Trump administration on Tuesday, passengers flying directly to the US from ten designated airports in in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey will no longer be allowed to carry laptops, tablets, or other electronic devices larger than a smartphone on board with them and must check these items instead, until further notice.
According to a US Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman cited by Reuters, the new restrictions are unrelated to President Donald Trump’s controversial order temporarily barring citizens of certain Muslim countries from entering the US, which is currently in the middle of a court challenge. Rather, they come in response to intelligence that terrorists may attempt to target US-bound airplanes on these routes by “smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items,” US officials told CNN Money.
The affected airports, which have until Friday to comply with the new rule, include:
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Amman, Jordan
- Cairo, Egypt
- Casablanca, Morocco
- Doha, Qatar
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- Kuwait City, Kuwait
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Direct flights to the US depart from these airports about 50 times a day, Reuters adds, operated by Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, and Turkish Airlines. American carriers are unaffected by the ban as no US airlines fly these routes, but US citizens traveling on these flights will be required to comply with the restriction as well as foreign nationals. The DHS has not said how long the ban will remain in place.
Hours later, the UK announced that it, too, would ban carry-on electronics, including oversized smartphones, on inbound flights from a different set of airports in the greater Middle East. CNN Money reports:
The second version of US President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily barring refugees and migrants from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US was subjected to immediate court challenges from several states and advocacy groups. Now, the so-called “travel ban” will not go into effect today as scheduled after two separate federal judges issued temporary restraining orders blocking it, the New York Times reports:
[I]n a pointed decision that repeatedly invoked Mr. Trump’s public comments, Judge Derrick K. Watson, of Federal District Court in Honolulu, wrote that a “reasonable, objective observer” would view even the new order as “issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose.”
In Maryland, Judge Theodore D. Chuang echoed that conclusion hours later, ruling in a case brought by nonprofit groups that work with refugees and immigrants, that the likely purpose of the executive order was “the effectuation of the proposed Muslim ban” that Mr. Trump pledged to enact as a presidential candidate.
In response, Trump lashed out at Judge Watson at a campaign-style rally in Nashville on Wednesday evening, accusing him of blocking the order for “political reasons” and also criticizing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear any appeal of Watson’s order. He also told supporters he was thinking about re-issuing the original version of the order, which was withdrawn after also being swiftly blocked in federal court, though it is not clear whether the president was serious.
The Justice Department says it intends to defend the order in court, and maintains that none of the language in the current version can be construed as imposing a religious test on travelers. The administration had deliberately rewritten the order to better survive a court challenge, but if appeals court judges also accept Trump’s campaign rhetoric as evidence of religious animus in this executive order, the legal battle over the order may be extensive. Trump said at his Wednesday rally that he was prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court, the Washington Post notes.