A three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s orderblocking the Trump administration from enforcing its January 27th executive order regarding immigration and refugees.The lawsuit — Washington v. Trump — challenged President Trump’s executive order regarding immigration and refugees. Democratic attorneys general of Washington and Minnesota commenced the lawsuit claiming that (i) the executive order would hurt both states’ economies and tax bases by disrupting the ability of their noncitizen immigrants to travel, and (ii) the executive order violated the First Amendment’s religious-freedom protections and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection guarantee by targeting Muslims.
Judge James Robart issued the temporary restraining order (TRO) on February 3rd to block nationwide enforcement of the travel ban pending further hearings. Though Judge Robart is one of several federal judges who has blocked parts of President Trump’s executive order since its announcement, his TRO was the most comprehensive, effectively negating the executive order’s function. The following day, the State Department and Department of Homeland Security said they would abide by the judge’s order and roll back their enforcement of the ban.
Among other provisions, the executive order temporarily suspended the United States Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees from admission until further notice, and suspended immigrant and non-immigrant visa travel from seven countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — for 90 days. The visa suspensions went into effect immediately. The travel restrictions that President Trump authorized in his January 27th executive order sparked protests worldwide as at least 60,000 visas were voided.
The Trump administration defended the executive order on national-security grounds, stating that it was necessary a comprehensive review of the nation’s security procedures at the border are to be conducted. Justice Department lawyers defended the order as a proper use of the president’s broad authority on immigration as the United States Code authorizes the president to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants” if he deems their entry “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The administration also cited the traditionally wide latitude given by the courts to the president and Congress to create and enforce national immigration laws.
In an unsigned opinion, the court rejected the Justice Department’s arguments against the restraining order. While much of the Ninth Circuit’s decision centered on the constitutionality of the travel ban, the appellate judges focused on whether the lower court’s temporary restraining order, which blocked the federal government from enforcing key parts of the executive order while legal proceedings continue, was justified. The 29-page decision concluded that “the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.” Further, “[the] Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.”
The Ninth Circuit decision means that travelers from the seven countries that fell under Trump’s restrictions will still be permitted to visit the United States for the time being. The Department of Justice is presently reviewing the decision, and the Trump administration is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court deadlocks in a 4-4 vote on whether or not to uphold Robart’s temporary restraining order, given the lone vacancy on the highest bench still pending after Justice Scalia’s death, the Ninth Circuit’s decision will stand. The lawsuit would then return to the federal district court in Seattle, where Judge Robart would consider a full injunction against enforcing the executive order for the duration of the trial on the merits.
Minutes after the ruling was issued, President Trump tweeted as follows:
SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017
“It’s a political decision, we’re going to see them in court, and I look forward to doing that,” President Trump said about the decision.