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The executive order that President Donald Trump penned in March banning entry to citizens from several Muslim-majority countries into the United States will not go back into effect, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
“Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute,” wrote Chief Judge Roger Gregory in an opinion for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. “It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across the nation.”
The decision affirms the earlier ruling by a lower district court to grant a preliminary injunction against Trump’s second attempt to ban entry into the U.S. to citizens from Muslim-majority countries. That order was more narrow than his initial ban, signed just days after Trump was sworn in.
The appeal, brought by federal government defendants including Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence, will next head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement late Thursday that he would seek review of the case in the country’s highest court.
“President Trump’s executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the Nation safe,” Sessions said. “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.”
The first ban, which caused chaos at U.S. airports because some travelers were detained at airports or pulled off planes, restricted the number of refugees that could enter the United States to 50,000 and barred the admittance of Syrian refugees outright.
A federal judge in Washington State granted a temporary restraining order against the ban, and the Ninth Circuit declined to grant the government a temporary stay of the temporary restraining order pending appeal.
Trump signed a second executive order March 6 that reinstated a 90-day suspension of entry for nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, but removed Iraq, a U.S. ally, from the initial list of banned countries.
The appeals court’s option in declining to reinstate the travel ban cites a Department of Homeland Security report that found that most foreign born “violent extremists” became radicalized years after entry into the United States. The implication is that Trump’s travel ban doesn’t really address the security problem posed by home-grown extremists.
The ruling also cites then-candidate Trump’s and his advisors’ litany of anti-Muslim statements seeking to bar entry based on religion.
Two of the plaintiff appellees, the International Refugee Assistance Project and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, both of which deal with refugee services, claimed they already had to expend great costs to deal with Trump’s second travel ban and claimed they would suffer financial harm because of a reduction in refugees.
Based on evidence presented by the refugee rights groups and several individual plaintiffs, the court found “that Plaintiffs have more than plausibly alleged that EO-2’s [the second travel ban] stated national security interest was provided in bad faith, as a pretext for its religious purpose.”
The Appeals Court ruling, which is another setback for the Trump administration, basically maintains the status quo — no ban is in effect — and sets the stage for the next legal battle in the U.S. Supreme Court.