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Appeals court refuses to reinstate President Trump's travel ban

President Trump had asked the appeals court to lift the restraining order blocking his new immigration rules.
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An appeals court in California has declined to reinstate the travel ban imposed by the Trump administration.

The federal government was attempting to lift the block granted by a district judge against the administration's controversial executive order that indefinitely bans refugees from Syria, places a 120-day suspension on all refugee admissions to the U.S., and imposed temporary travel bans stopping people from seven Muslim-majority nations entering the U.S.

Seattle-based judge James Robart imposed a temporary restraining order on the executive order after a lawsuit was brought by Washington state and Minnesota.

After hearing arguments this week from both states and the federal government, a three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced it will uphold the restraining order.

This is how President Trump responded:

The decision doesn't mean that the ban will not eventually be enacted.

Thursday's ruling just means the restrictions are suspended while courts consider whether Trump's order is constitutional.

The White House could still ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision. But the high court currently has only eight justices. If they split 4-4, the appeals court ruling shelving Trump's order would stay in effect.

Arguments for and against

Trump signed the executive order a week after he was inaugurated as president (read it here). It says suspending the U.S. refugee program and temporarily banning travel from seven countries is needed "to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals."

The White House says the countries named in the order – Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, and Iran – have all been tied to terrorist acts. Lawyers defending the order have said its purpose is to pause admission of refugees and travelers from those countries while the U.S. analyzes its vetting process to see how it can be strengthened.

The countries named in the order all have predominantly Muslim populations and critics have called the travel restrictions a form of religious discrimination. Some also argue that U.S. immigration laws must be applied equally to all countries.

Apart from discrimination arguments, the lawsuit from Washington and Minnesota says the order hurts the states by separating people – some of them legal residents of the U.S. – from their homes, jobs, families, and studies. Many large companies, especially from the technology industry, have filed court papers siding with the states. (A long list of documents related to the case is at this website.)

President remains confident

Soon after Thursday's court ruling was released, President Trump told reporters "This is just a decision that came down, but we're going to win the case," NBC News says.

The ruling by the three-judge panel was unanimous. Two of the judges were appointed by Democratic presidents, one by a Republican.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, lashed out against the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a statement Cotton called it "the most notoriously left-wing court in America."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the decision a victory for the country and said it shows "no one is above the law; not even the president."

While it could still ask the Supreme Court to reverse Judge Robart's temporary restraining order, the Trump administration may be focusing on the larger court case that still lies ahead.

Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Thursday's ruling "does not affect the merits at all. It is an interim ruling. We're fully confident that when we get our day in court and have an opportunity to argue the case on its merits, that we will prevail."

A ruling on what evidence will be admitted

In a significant section of their ruling, the Appeals Court judges said previous comments made by President Trump and others close to him referring to a "Muslim ban" can be used as evidence in future discussions about whether the order violates the establishment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.

The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from unduly favoring one religion over another.

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