Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

What to know about travel ban appeals


Three judges from the 9th Circuit Court were in Seattle to hear arguments in Hawaii's lawsuit over President Trump's travel ban.

The three-judge 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Seattle also sharply questioned whether Trump had retracted his earlier call for a total ban on Muslim immigration.

Streamed live through the website of the US Courts for the 9th Circuit from a court room in Seattle, Washington state, the three judges grilled Acting US Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall for his defense on behalf of the Trump administration.

Colloquially known as the "travel ban", the order temporarily suspended new visas for travelers from six Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - as well as the admission of refugees into the United States.

That's the question before two federal appellate courts that have now heard arguments over Trump's revised travel ban and are being asked by Trump's opponents to use the president's own anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric against him.

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall was repeatedly asked to explain how controversial statements made by Trump and administration officials can allow a reasonable observer to conclude the objective of the executive order was something other than prejudice against Muslims.

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Monday's hearing was the second major legal test for the revised travel ban in the span of a week.

There's not estimated timeline on when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could issue a decision in the case. According to Mandel, when the reason for stopping someone at the border appears to be legitimate, courts may "neither look behind the exercise of that discretion"-by investigating the motive fuelling it-nor balance it against constitutional values".

"Well, whatever the number of nationals who try to travel to the country and can't otherwise obtain waivers, we don't know yet, obviously, because we haven't been able to implement the order", Wall said.

"There's no guarantee that the 13 4th Circuit judges who heard argument last week will hand down their ruling before the three 9th Circuit judges hearing Monday's argument will", said Steve Vladeck, CNN legal analyst and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law. Paez, all appointed by President Clinton, will decide the case, State of Hawaii vs. Donald Trump. By contrast, Katyal contended, a ruling for the challengers would "preserve a status quo that existed for decades" while at the same time leaving the president's powers intact.

The 9th Circuit isn't the only appeals court now evaluating Trump's executive order. They also questioned whether they could consider Trump's campaign statements, with one judge asking if there was anything other than "willful blindness" that would prevent them from doing so. An executive order signed by Trump in January decreased the refugee limit from 110,000 to 50,000 this fiscal year, but the cap was not blocked in court until mid-March. The presiding judge, Ronald M. Gould, seemed particularly interested in that possible approach. But the judges, he said, should nonetheless tread lightly in weighing political remarks.

As part of that ruling, Watson cited Trump's campaign statements on Muslims as evidence that his executive order was discriminatory.

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And should the statements President Trump made on the campaign trail - about banning Muslims from the U.S - be considered as a motive for his travel ban?

Wall was formerly a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and has argued before the nation's top court 11 times.

That executive order was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court at the time. "If you rule for him, you defer to the President in a way that history teaches us is very unsafe". But "we wouldn't be standing here", Mr Katyal said, if these comments were the only indication of what spurred the president to sign the travel ban.

The 9th Circuit is one of two federal appeals courts considering challenges to the executive order.

But Paez noted that Trump made his calls for a Muslim ban "in the midst of a highly contentious campaign".

CORNISH: People have been talking about this case as though it's going to go to the Supreme Court, but what happens in the meantime?

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