A federal appeals court panel on Monday allowed President Donald Trump's third travel ban to partially take effect, deciding that the government – at least for now – can keep out people targeted by the measure who have no bona fide ties to the United States.
In a brief order, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit temporarily put on hold part of a lower judge's ruling that had nearly completely blocked the government from enforcing its ban.
The judges said that the government could implement the ban, except on "foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." They said such people include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States.
Tyler Q. Houlton, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said officials were reviewing the court order and "looking to operationalize the ruling, consistent with all applicable court orders, and provide guidance to the field." State Department and Justice Department spokespeople said they would comment later.
Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, who had sued over the ban on behalf of his state, said in a statement: "Today's decision … closely tracks guidance previously issued by the Supreme Court. I'm pleased that family ties to the U.S., including grandparents, will be respected."
The third version of Trump's travel ban had been set to take effect last month and would have barred various types of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. But before it could be implemented, two federal judges ruled against the measure, blocking the government from enforcing it on people from six of the eight countries.
A federal judge in Hawaii had blocked the government from implementing the measure almost completely, though he said it could be enforced on people from North Korea and Venezuela. A federal judge in Maryland, meanwhile, issued a less complete halt, saying the government could similarly not enforce the measure on people from six of the eight countries – save North Korea and Venezuela – but only if the travelers the government sought to block had a "bona fide" relationship with a person or entity in the United States. That would include family members, as well as those with a job offer or other professional engagement.
The government appealed in both cases, and oral arguments are set for next month. To get the measure fully restored, the government would have to run the table – winning in both the 9th Circuit, the higher court for the Hawaii case, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the appeals court for the Maryland case.
The ruling from the 9th Circuit does not affect that schedule but rather allows the government to implement the measure at least partially, on people without any U.S. ties, until then. The judges issued what is known as a stay, or temporary halt, on U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson's blockade of the ban. They could ultimately reverse course after hearing more arguments.
The government has argued the ban is necessary for national security, helping prevent those who might want to harm the U.S. from coming into the country. Various versions of the measure have taken a tortuous path through the legal system, and so far, none has succeeded in sticking.
The first iteration, signed in January, sought to block citizens of seven Muslim majority countries and all refugees, though judges ruled against it, and the president revoked and revised the measure. The second version, signed in March, winnowed the list of countries from seven to six, though it, too, was largely held up in court until it expired.
The latest ban was devised after an extensive process in which the U.S. sought information from foreign governments to help vet their travelers. Those nations that were either unwilling or unable to cooperate ended up on the list, authorities have said.
Unlike the last ban, the newest one is permanent; countries can get off the list, but only if they are able to provide the data the U.S. requires. It also affects different countries in different ways.
For Syria and North Korea, it blocks immigrants wanting to relocate to the United States and nonimmigrants wishing to visit in some capacity. For Iran, it blocks both immigrants and nonimmigrants, although it exempts students and those participating in a cultural exchange.
For Chad, Libya and Yemen, it blocks people from going to the United States as immigrants or on business or tourist visas. It blocks people from Somalia from coming as immigrants, and it names Venezuela, though it only blocks certain government officials of that country.
Those suing over the ban have argued that though the measure is different from its predecessors, it still amounts to an unconstitutional Muslim ban, and they say Trump exceeded his lawful authority in authorizing it. They have found district judges to be sympathetic, though their path through the higher courts might be more challenging.
Though both the 4th and 9th Circuits had ruled against the previous version of the measure, the Supreme Court vacated the precedent in both of those decisions.