New York Times
By Miriam Jordan
November 13, 2017
A federal appeals court in California on Monday allowed President Trump’s latest travel restrictions to partly take effect, ruling that the government can bar entry to people who come from six majority-Muslim countries and who lack ties to the United States, thus handing the administration a momentary victory.
In a two-paragraph order, a panel of three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled on the administration’s request to block a lower court’s decision, from a federal judge in Hawaii, that prevented the latest travel policy from being implemented.
The appeals panel on Monday upheld that ruling for people with a “bona fide relationship” with close family or an entity in the United States, like a university or company. But the court blocked the lower court’s decision for people from the six countries without such ties, meaning they can now be kept from entering the United States.
The restrictions will apply to travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The latest ban also blocks travel by certain Venezuelan government officials and most North Koreans; courts have not stopped the administration from enacting the restrictions on those countries.
Lauren Ehrsam, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said on Monday: “We are reviewing the court’s order, and the government will begin enforcing the travel proclamation consistent with the partial stay.” She added that the administration, which continues to appeal the lower court’s ruling, believes that the ban “should be allowed to take effect in its entirety,” regardless of whether someone has a tie to the United States.
It is unclear how many people who enter the United States have ties to the country. In general, people who come with an immigrant visa have a familial relation that enabled them to qualify for a green card, or legal permanent residency. Students and people with job offers would most likely be considered to have a tie to a United States organization, but those who come for vacation or medical care would not.
In unveiling the third iteration of the travel ban in late September, the administration said that the eight countries did not share with the United States information to enable proper screening of their nationals.
The administration crafted the latest policy after judges ruled that the previous two versions were unconstitutional attempts to bar Muslims from the country and violated the Constitution.
A day before the newest ban was to go into effect, Judge Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu issued a nationwide order that froze most of it. A day later, a federal judge in Maryland issued a similar but narrower order, which halted the ban only for people with bona fide ties to the United States.
Both judges deemed the ban to be discriminatory against Muslims and similar to the previous ones.
In Maryland, Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the Federal District Court in Greenbelt cited the president’s statements and Twitter messages criticizing Muslims to justify his ruling.
“To extent that the government might have provided additional evidence to establish that national security is now the primary purpose for the travel ban, it has not done so,” he wrote.
In Hawaii, Judge Watson wrote that the latest ban “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.”
The Trump administration appealed both decisions, citing national security concerns. It said that it is not trying to bar Muslims from entering the United States, but rather to exercise control over who enters from some of the world’s most menacing countries.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision on Monday limits the scope of the Hawaii injunction and brings it in line with the one issued in Maryland.
“This is certainly good for the administration,” conceded Betsy Fisher, policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, the lead plaintiff in the Maryland case. Ms. Fisher added that for travelers from the six countries, however, “everyone can expect longer processing times to allow for proving bona fide relationships.”
The Supreme Court was scheduled to review the second version of the ban when Mr. Trump issued the third, and legal experts believe the latest version will reach the top court.
Last month, Mr. Trump signed an executive order to resume the refugee resettlement program, which had virtually ground to a halt in June. But that order also imposed new restrictions on 11 countries until the government has completed a 90-day review of security measures. Nearly half of all refugees that arrived in the United States last year were nationals of one of the countries.
The administration also froze indefinitely a program that allows refugees resettled in the United States to bring over spouses and children, saying the government needed to enhance screening. That move is now being challenged in two lawsuits in federal court in Seattle.
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