World Bulletin / News Desk
federal court late Thursday voted to maintain a restraining order on President Donald Trump's executive action that bars U.S. entry to nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel ruled those from the seven allegedly "terror-prone" countries could continue to come to the U.S.
“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,” the judges said in the ruling. “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.”
While the legal battle is far from over with a Supreme Court fight likely, the panel's decision upholds a block that effectively eats into the action's 90-day ban.
Trump signaled a clear intention to continue the battle, tweeting after the ruling: "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!"
The panel of three judges wrote the public "has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies", while it "also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.
"We need not characterize the public interest more definitely than this."
The executive action, signed late last month and just one week into Trump's presidency, caused tens of thousands of legal visas to be revoked, resulting in the detention of dozens of travelers at airports and triggered mass protests.
Last Friday, Federal Judge James Robart from Seattle, Washington, blocked Trump's action nationwide, drawing the ire and condemnation of the president but the decision won praise from pro-immigrant groups.
Trump chastised Robart as a "so-called judge", and vowed to defend his immigration policy, saying it would be the judge’s fault if any attack on U.S. soil was carried out during the time the action was blocked.
The president also sacked acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to defend the travel ban while accusing her of betraying the Department of Justice.
New Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was sworn in earlier Thursday, pledged to work with Trump to defeat "lawlessness" in immigration.
On Tuesday, Ninth Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland asked defending lawyer, August Flentje, who represents the Justice Department, whether the government was able to bring "any evidence connecting these countries with terrorism".
Judge Richard Clifton, reminding Flentje of existing screening procedures, asked: “Is there any reason for us to think that there’s a real risk or that circumstances have changed such that there’s a real risk?”
Flentje responded that the president "determined that there was a real risk".
Federal law on immigration grants the president extensive powers to block any group or individual from coming to the U.S. Such power, however, is limited by the Constitution when and if enforced exclusively on religious or ethnic grounds, a potential breach of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution on discrimination.
The Trump administration has adamantly stressed that perceived flaws in the current immigration system poses a national security risk and requires the government to freeze the refugee program until it is able to function properly.
The beginnings of the ban, as well as recent statements from the administration on details of the action's implementation, laid bare a bias against Muslims coming to the U.S., according to critics.
Trump's campaign for the Oval Office was fueled in December 2015 when he demanded a "complete and total shutdown of Muslims" coming to the country.
He modified the pledge several times on the campaign trail but struggled to explain the connection he appeared to make between terrorism and Muslim refugees, except for routinely harping on "radical Islamic terrorism".
Baked into the executive action is the stipulation that minorities from the seven blacklisted countries, widely assumed to be Christians, shall be prioritized, while Muslims are banned for 90 days and Syrian Muslims indefinitely.
In an interview with a Christian television network, Trump said he would prioritize Syrian Christians for U.S. entry – a comment critics say further solidifies the underlying faith bias.
In another instance that calls into question the constitutionality of the action, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he was tasked by Trump to find a way to find a way to “legally” implement the ban on Muslims.