Campaigners promised to redouble their efforts on Tuesday after the US Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump’s third travel ban to take full effect, barring the entry of most travellers from six mainly Muslim countries, while legal challenges play out.
The decision reversed that of lower courts which had said the controversial proposal should not be implemented while questions were considered.
It delivers a victory for a beleaguered president, who campaigned on a promise to ban the entry of Muslims, and suggests the Supreme Court justices will eventually rule in his favour when they hear the final arguments.
However, advocates for Muslims and immigrants said there was still a long way to go before the issue was settled on its merits.
Hakim Ouansafi, chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, which previously blocked the ban in the Hawaii courts, said: “This challenge is still on going in courts and we are confident that once the attorneys in this case and the attorney general of Hawaii and his team make their arguments, the judges will do the right thing and find in favour of not discriminating against any group or nationalities and make it clear that no one should trump the constitution of the United States.
[ US Supreme Court backs Trump’s travel ban on six mainly Muslim countries ]
[ White House asks US Supreme Court to allow full travel ban ]
“It might be a simple signature but it is affecting millions of innocent people including millions of elderly and children.”
The third version of Mr Trump’s travel ban - covering arrivals from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela – was due to go into force in mid October.
It was partially halted at the eleventh hour by judges in Maryland and Hawaii as they considered arguments that it discriminated against people on the grounds of nationality and religion, and that the president had overstepped the limits of his power.
They said “foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”, such as grandparents, grandchildren aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins, could not be barred.
The judges decided that Mr Trump’s statements and tweets, before and after the election, were evidence the ban was motivated by “religious animus”.
The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court to set aside the injunction. On Monday they declared victory when the justices voted seven to two to lift the injunction.
It means all travellers from Syria are now banned from entering the US, while citizens from the other countries face varying restrictions depending on their visa.
Immigrations lawyers and campaign groups circulated contact details on Monday night fearing a repeat of the original ban when hundreds of arrivals were detained or returned to their country of origin. In the event, there were no reports of problems at airports.
Although the challenges to the ban continue to make their way through the lower courts, opponents admitted the Supreme Court decision was an ominous sign that the justices viewed the latest version of the ban as materially different to the first two iterations.
Margo Schlanger, a University of Michigan Law School professor, said: “It suggests that the Supreme Court is more sympathetic to the government than the prior orders suggested.
“I think the courts of appeal were doing it right. I think it would have been more appropriate to deny this stay. But there’s still a battle to fight.”
The justices offered no explanation for their ruling but said they expected the lower courts to reach decisions "with appropriate dispatch”.
The next round in the battle comes this week, when appeals courts in Hawaii and Maryland will hear arguments.
For its part, the Trump administration says the measures reflect a broad review of immigration policy and reflect concerns about foreign nations’ abilities to screen travellers and share information with the US.
In his argument to the Supreme Court, Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, said: “The constitution and acts of Congress confer on the president broad authority to prevent aliens abroad from entering this country when he deems it in the nation's interest.”
But lawyers for the state of Hawaii argued that the president had overreached his authority.
“Most importantly, the President’s third travel ban, like his first and his second, is irreconcilable with the immigration laws and the constitution. It openly ‘discriminates because of nationality’ in the teeth of an unambiguous statutory prohibition,” they wrote.
Days after the submissions, Mr Trump retweeted Islamophobic content from a British far-Right political group. Unverified videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, purported to show Muslims assaulting people and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Details of the content were forwarded to the Supreme Court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as part of its case.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s immigrants’ rights project, said: “President Trump's anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret. He has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter.
“It's unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims.”