WASHINGTON – The US Department of Justice said Thursday it will appeal a ruling upholding a suspension of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to the US Supreme Court.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the decision in a statement after a US appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling blocking Trump’s executive order which bans travellers from six Muslim-majority countries.
The executive order Trump signed “is well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe,” Sessions said in a statement.
“The president is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States,” Sessions said.
The statement noted that the three dissenting judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, explained that the executive order is a “constitutional exercise of the president’s duty to protect our communities from terrorism.”
The appeals court upheld in a 10-3 decision a Maryland court’s ruling in March that kept the executive order from going into effect.
The appeals court found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed at trial in showing that the policy violates US constitutional prohibitions on religious discrimination.
Chief Judge Roger Gregory said Trump’s order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”
Gregory said that while Congress granted the president broad power to deny entry to aliens, that power is not absolute.
“It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union declared “victory” in the decision.
The Trump administration had appealed the Maryland decision as well as a separate decision by a federal judge in Hawaii. Both had halted implementation of the entire executive order.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle heard arguments in the Hawaii case earlier this month, but has yet to rule.
The executive order banned new visas from being issued to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and also sought to halt issuances of new refugee admissions from around the world for 120 days.
Trump issued an initial travel ban for seven countries and a temporary stop to all refugees on January 27, one week after taking office. The move caused widespread disruptions at international airports and protests from Muslims, rights groups and others.
When that initial ban became tied up in the courts, the Trump administration chose to issue a revised executive order.
The Trump administration said then it believed it had addressed the legal concerns with its new order, which dropped Iraq from the list of affected countries but maintained a 120-day freeze in US refugee admissions. The new order had been set to take effect on March 16. -dpa