Appeals court arguments on Trump’s travel ban set for Tuesday

An appeals court will hear oral arguments Tuesday evening on whether to restore President Trump’s executive action on immigration and refugees.

The hearing was announced on Monday evening, around the same time the Trump administration filed legal briefs with the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a federal judge's decision to halt the order blocking entry to the U.S. of refugees and citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries. 

The appeals court will hear arguments on Tuesday night at 6 p.m., with each side getting 30 minutes of argument time conducted over the phone. Audio of the hearing will be live streamed on the court's public website. Initially, the court said a recording of the call would be made public after the hearing.

ADVERTISEMENT
Attorneys for the Trump administration maintain that the states do not have the legal standing to bring their lawsuit challenging the order and that the president has broad power over immigration under both the Constitution and federal law.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) — joined by Minnesota — is suing the administration to invalidate key provisions of the executive order and asked for the temporary travel ban to be immediately suspended.

Ferguson argues that the immigration order harms state residents, employers and educational institutions by separating families and damaging the economy.

A federal judge in Washington agreed to issue a nationwide restraining order temporarily halting the travel ban on Friday, while he considers the case.

The appeals court denied a request from the Trump administration for an emergency stay on Sunday but is expected to rule on whether to allow the immigration policy to remain on hold sometime after the hearing.

If the restraining order is upheld, Trump could ask the Supreme Court to step in. If the restraining order is lifted, travelers from the seven affected countries will be immediately barred from entering the U.S., which the plaintiffs said would "unleash chaos again.”

In its brief, the administration argued that the executive order is “a lawful exercise” of the president’s authority over the entry of refugees and aliens into the country and said the purpose of the temporary travel ban is to review and revise screening procedures to prevent terrorists from infiltrating the U.S. 

The administration argued that the injunction should “at most” be limited to “previously admitted aliens who are temporarily abroad now or who wish to travel and return to the United States in the future.”

“But even if some relief were appropriate, the court’s sweeping nationwide injunction is vastly overbroad, extending far beyond the State’s legal claims to encompass numerous applications of the Order that the State does not even attempt to argue are unlawful,” the brief says. 

The administration also attempted to beat back against the lawsuit’s claim that the temporary travel ban violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. The brief says both parts of the executive order being challenged “are neutral with respect to religion.” 

The seven countries targeted in Trump’s order were already identified as having a heightened risk of terrorism by Congress and the Obama administration, while refugees from all countries are suspended from entering the U.S., the brief says.

But lawyers for Washington and Minnesota point to Trump's own comments on the issue from the campaign trail, where he vowed to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. The White House has emphasized that the executive order is not a Muslim ban.

"The sham of a secular purpose is exposed by both the language of the order and defendants' expressions of anti-Muslim intent," the plaintiffs wrote.

The executive order bans people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia from entering the U.S. for 90 days and temporarily halts the United States' refugee resettlement program for 120 days, while indefinitely suspending resettlement for refugees from Syria.

The order also says the administration should "prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality."

Updated 7:37 p.m.