US court denies Trump request to immediately restore travel ban

The higher court’s denial of an immediate stay of the president's ban means the legal battles will continue for days.

A protester holds a sign during a rally organised by the International Migrants Alliance to protest against US president Donald Trump and his recent immigration and refugee restrictions, outside the US consulate in Hong Kong on February 5, 2017. Isaac Lawrence / AFP
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WASHINGTON // A federal appeals court on Sunday denied the US Justice Department’s request for an immediate reinstatement of President Donald Trump’s ban on accepting certain travellers and all refugees.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco instead asked challengers of the ban to respond to the appeal filed by the Trump administration late Saturday night, and for the Justice Department to file a counter-response by Monday afternoon.

The Trump administration declared that a federal judge in Seattle overstepped his authority by temporarily blocking the ban nationwide. Now the higher court’s denial of an immediate stay means the legal battles will continue for days at least.

Acting solicitor general Noel Francisco argued on Saturday the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States – an assertion that invokes the wider battle to come over illegal immigration.

“The power to expel or exclude aliens is a fundamental sovereign attribute, delegated by Congress to the executive branch of government and largely immune from judicial control,” the brief said.

Earlier Saturday, the government officially suspended the ban’s enforcement in compliance with order of the order of US district judge James Robart. It marks an extraordinary setback for the new president, who only a week ago acted to suspend America’s refugee programme and halt immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries the government said raise terrorism concerns.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, mocked Judge Robart, who was appointed by President George W Bush, calling him a “so-called judge” whose “ridiculous” ruling “will be overturned”.

The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!

“Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision,” he tweeted.

Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision

Mr Trump’s direct attack recalled his diatribes during the campaign against the federal judge of Mexican heritage who oversaw lawsuits alleging fraud by Trump University, and may prompt some tough questions as these challenges rise through the courts.

But the government’s brief repeatedly asserts that presidential authority cannot be questioned by judges once the nation’s security is invoked.

Congress “vests complete discretion in the President” to impose conditions on alien entry, so Trump isn’t legally required to justify such decisions, it says. His executive order said the ban is necessary for “protecting against terrorism” and that “is sufficient to end the matter”.

* Associated Press