Court partly reinstates Trump travel ban, fall arguments set

FILE - In this May 15, 2017 file photo, protesters wave signs and chant during a demonstration against President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, outside a federal courthouse in Seattle. The Supreme Court is letting the Trump administration enforce its 90-day ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, overturning lower court orders that blocked it. The action Monday, June 26, 2017, is a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is allowing President Donald Trump to forge ahead with a limited version of his ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries to the U.S. Trump hailed the decision as a “victory for national security,” but it’s likely to set off a new round of court disputes over anti-terror efforts and religious discrimination.

The justices will hear full arguments in October in the case that has stirred heated emotions across the nation and pointed rebukes from lower courts saying the administration is targeting Muslims. Until then, the court said Monday, Trump’s ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen can be enforced if those visitors lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The ruling sets up a potential clash between the government and opponents of the ban over the strength of visitors’ ties to the United States. A senior official said plans already had been written to enforce the ban aggressively. But immigrant groups said relatively few people try to enter the United States without well-established ties. Those groups said they will be sending lawyers and monitors back to American airports, where the initial, immediate implementation of the ban in January caused chaos and confusion.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the ban would be implemented starting 72 hours after being cleared by courts. That means it will take effect Thursday morning.

Excerpts from a press conference with Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin:

“I think one of the things that’s notable about today’s decision is that six of the nine justices on the Supreme Court did decide that, at least temporarily, people who have a connection to the United States can come into the United States and the travel ban will not be stopping them.

“It also includes students at the University of Hawaii who have been accepted to UH. They are going to be allowed to come into the country and attend their classes just as they had hoped for. It also means the people who work here, and that would include the University of Hawaii faculty, who had previously been concerned that they would not be allowed to leave and come back without a concern, that they would be banned from coming back in to the U.S. solely because of them coming from these six Muslim-majority nations, and that’s always been our concern from the very beginning.

“We absolutely believe in the president’s power to uphold national security but he just needs to do so in a way that doesn’t just discriminate against people simply because of their nation of origin or because of their religion.

“I’ll be there in October. … One of the things that happened is that the Supreme Court, I think at our request — I think all the parties had requested this — was that the cases be consolidated, meaning that our case, which went up through the 9th Circuit, state of Hawaii and (co-plaintiff) Dr. (Ismail) Elshikh would be combined with the case that was brought by the International Refugee Assistance Program, and so my understanding is, right now it seems the way the instructions are coming in, there’s going to be equal time given to both sides. What that could mean is that we have to negotiate who gets to argue what arguments, but I do get the feeling that we’re going to get to argue something.

“I’m not surprised by what they did in the sense that I think they were trying to come up with some sort of compromise that would be in place between now and the time when the actual arguments get placed in front of them. I think that the way they did it, there’s certain phrases. It’s not a long decision, only 16 pages, but I think there’s certain phrases in there where they talk about how we’re going to argue the merits later. We’re going to talk about the constitutional argument or the immigration law argument later, but for now, we have to take into account the entire country and just kind of the arguments that are being raised by both sides.

“I’ve always believed that when it got to the Supreme Court, that we’d be looking at a divided court, and I think we have set up our arguments, I don’t want to take too much credit for it, but I just think the way the arguments have been set up now are about as good as you can get.”

The president has denied that the ban targets Muslims but says it is needed “to protect the nation from terrorist activities” committed by citizens of the six countries. All six have been designated as presenting heightened concerns about terrorism and travel to the United States.

The 90-day ban is necessary to allow an internal review of screening procedures for visa applicants from the countries, the administration says. That review should be complete before Oct. 2, the first day the justices could hear arguments in their new term.

The ban will have run its course by then, raising a question of whether the justices will even issue a decision in the case or dismiss it because it has been overtaken by events.

The court asked both sides to address the issue of timing, along with questions about whether the ban is aimed at Muslims, the impact of Trump’s provocative campaign statements and federal courts’ authority to restrain the president in the area of immigration.

A 120-day ban on refugees also is being allowed to take effect on a similar, limited basis.

Three of the court’s conservative justices said they would have let the administration apply the bans without the limits imposed by their colleagues.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said the government has shown it is likely to win the legal case in the end. Thomas said the government’s interest in preserving national security outweighs any hardship to people denied entry into the country.

Trump hailed the court’s order as a “clear victory for our national security,” especially after lower court rulings that blocked the travel ban in its entirety. He said in a statement that his “number one responsibility” is to keep Americans safe.

His administration’s implementation plans, largely orchestrated by White House adviser Stephen Miller, focus on refusing entry to people who are unable to show a substantial and pre-existing tie to a person or institution in the United States. The plans were described by a senior official who was familiar with them, speaking on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss them publicly by name.

But some immigration lawyers said relatively few people would fall under the ban because people coming to study, work or visit family members already have sufficient relationships with others already is in the country.

“This order, properly construed, should really allow for only the narrowest implementation of any part of the ban. It’s going to be really important for us to make sure the government abides by the terms of the order and does not try to use it as a backdoor into implementing the full- scale Muslim ban,” said Omar Jadwat, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing some of the challengers to the travel ban.

The court’s opinion explained the kinds of relationships people from the six countries must demonstrate to obtain a U.S. visa.

“For individuals, a close familial relationship is required,” the court said. For people who want to come to the United States to work or study, “the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, not for the purpose of evading” the travel ban.

The opinion faulted the two federal appeals courts that had blocked the travel policy for going too far to limit Trump’s authority over immigration. The president announced the travel ban a week after he took office in January and revised it in March after setbacks in court.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the ban was “rooted in religious animus” toward Muslims and pointed to Trump’s campaign promise to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country as well as tweets and remarks he has made since becoming president.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the ban does not comply with federal immigration law, including a prohibition on nationality-based discrimination. That court also put a hold on separate aspects of the policy that would keep all refugees out of the United States for 120 days and cut by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000, the cap on refugees in the current government spending year that ends Sept. 30.

Trump’s first executive order on travel applied to travelers from Iraq and well as the six countries, and took effect immediately, causing chaos and panic at airports as the Homeland Security Department scrambled to figure out whom the order covered and how it was to be implemented.

A federal judge blocked it eight days later, and that was upheld by a 9th circuit panel. Rather than pursue an appeal, the administration said it would revise the policy.

In March, Trump issued the narrower order.
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Associated Press writers Ted Bridis and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

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