Trump travel ban: States urge retention of temporary block

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Donald Trump has said he is confident his administration’s appeal will succeed (AFP Image)

(BBC) Restoring President Donald Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven mainly Muslim countries would “unleash chaos again”, lawyers for two US states argue.

Counsel for Washington and Minnesota urged a federal appeals court in San Francisco to maintain its nationwide temporary restraining order.

They are being backed by technology firms which say the travel ban is harmful to their businesses.

Trump administration lawyers are expected to respond later on Monday.

The restraining order was issued on Friday by a federal judge in Seattle, Washington, suspending Mr Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven mainly Muslim countries.

Visa holders from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen will be allowed to enter the US until the full case has been heard.

The judge’s order received a furious response from Mr Trump, who claims national security is at risk.

The San Francisco appeals court has already turned down a Department of Justice request to set aside this temporary block, designed to allow the two states time to make their case that the ban is both unconstitutional and harmful to their residents, businesses and universities.

Their lawyers told the appeals court that any resumption of the ban “would reinstitute those harms, separating families, stranding our university students and faculty, and barring travel”.

They added: “Defendants now ask this court to unleash chaos again by staying the district court order. The court should decline.”

They also lodged a statement by a host of national security officials – including former secretaries of state John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, and former CIA director Leon Panetta – which describes the travel ban as ineffective, dangerous and counterproductive.

US legal residents from the seven countries named in the ban have been facing uncertainty (Astrid Riecken/EPA Image)

Lawyers for tech firms including Apple and Google have also lodged arguments with the court, saying that the travel ban would harm their companies by making it more difficult to recruit employees.

President Trump has attacked the federal judge who originally blocked his travel ban and the judiciary in general, saying Americans should blame the courts “if something happens”.

Mr Trump also said he had instructed border officials to check people entering America “very carefully”.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Mr Trump said: “I have instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!”

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”


US border checks

  • All persons arriving at a US port of entry are inspected by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers
  • Visitors must have valid US visas or hold “Green Cards” that authorise them to live and work in the US permanently
  • Travellers under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for authorisation via ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before their visit
  • Visitors must complete declaration forms
  • Travellers may have their fingerprints and photos taken
  • CBP officers may also ask to inspect luggage or personal items
  • CBP uses biometric technologies to verify travellers’ identities
  • Travellers from certain countries can use Automated Passport Control (APC)

US federal judge James Robart’s ruling on Friday suspends the implementation of elements of President Trump’s executive order.

Washington and Minnesota argue that the ban is unconstitutional because it denied people with valid entry documents the right to travel without legal recourse. It also violated freedom of religion rights by appearing to target Muslims, they said.

The ruling suspends:

  • the seven-country travel ban;
  • the temporary refugee admissions ban;
  • the reprioritisation of minority religion (interpreted to mean Christian) refugee claims;
  • and the ban on Syrian refugees.

The cap on overall US refugee admissions this year of 50,000 is not covered by the judge’s ruling.

In its appeal, the justice department said Judge Robart had overreached by “second-guessing” the president on a national security matter.

It also argued that only the president could decide who can enter or stay in the US.

Democrats and some Republicans have criticised Mr Trump’s comments about the judiciary.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Mr Trump seemed “intent on precipitating a constitutional crisis”.

Meanwhile, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell told CNN it was “best to avoid criticising judges individually”.

Judge Robart has served on the federal bench since 2004 after being nominated by President George W Bush.

Friday’s ruling has also seen visa holders from the affected nations scramble to get flights to the US, fearing they have a slim window to enter.

The state department has been reversing visa cancellations, and US homeland security employees have been told by their department to comply with the ruling.

The ban caused confusion at US and foreign airports when it came into force.

Polls suggest that US public opinion is sharply divided on the travel ban.

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