A divided US Supreme Court let President Donald Trump’s travel ban take full effect while legal challenges go forward, handing him a major victory and suggesting the court ultimately will uphold the restrictions.
Trump will now be able to bar or restrict entry by people from six mostly Muslim countries, even if they have a relationship with a US-based person or institution. It marks the first time the Supreme Court has let his entry restrictions take full effect.
In two identical orders issued Monday, the justices effectively superseded a compromise they reached in June, when they let an earlier version of the ban take partial effect but exempted people with a "bona fide" US connection. The new orders apply for the remainder of the appeals process, including possible Supreme Court review.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented without explanation. Lower courts had partially blocked the new policy, issuing orders that tracked the Supreme Court’s June decision.
The administration gambled that the high court would be more receptive to the newest version of the ban, announced on Sept. 24. The policy bans or restricts entry by people from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Syria, Chad, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. The policy also bars entry by people from North Korea and by some Venezuelan government officials.
The new Supreme Court orders don’t directly address the merits of the legal challenges. Two federal appeals courts are scheduled to hear arguments this week. The high court could agree to consider appeals later, perhaps soon enough for a ruling during the current term that ends in June.
In its orders Monday, the Supreme Court said it expects the appeals courts to rule "with appropriate dispatch."
The administration argued that the newest version of the ban was put in place only after national security officials thoroughly reviewed vetting procedures on a country-by-country basis. The Department of Homeland Security would be able to add or remove travel restrictions on countries as conditions change.
"We are not surprised by today’s Supreme Court decision permitting immediate enforcement of the president’s proclamation limiting travel from countries presenting heightened risks of terrorism," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters traveling with Trump on Air Force One.
"The proclamation is lawful and essential to protecting our homeland."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a statement, called the court’s orders "a substantial victory for the safety and security of the American people."
The challengers to the policy say Trump is exceeding his authority under federal immigration law and violating the Constitution by targeting Muslims.
“President Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret - he has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter," said Omar Jadwat, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is the lead attorney in one of the two legal challenges.
"It’s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims."
Trump last week retweeted a series of unverified anti-Muslim videos posted by a leader in a British ultranationalist movement.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, who is pressing the other case against the ban, tweeted that "we agree a speedy resolution is needed for the sake of our universities, our businesses and most of all, for people marginalised by this unlawful order."
The appeals are Trump v. Hawaii, 17A550, and Trump v. International Refugee Assistance, 17A560.
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