Texas attorney general backs Trump in travel ban litigation

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(Reuters) - President Donald Trump acted well within his authority in issuing his executive order on immigration, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told a federal appeals court on Wednesday.

Paxton, a Republican, attached a brief in asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California for permission to argue in support of Trump's temporary ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Texas is the first state to back Trump in the closely watched litigation. A group of 15 states and the District of Columbia have filed papers with the appeals court in support of Washington state's challenge to Trump's Jan. 27 order, saying it harms their educational institutions and economies.

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Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Pro-Trump demonstrators yell slogans during protest against the travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order, at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
A counter demonstrator holds a sign up as protesters gather in Battery Park and march to the offices of Customs and Border Patrol in Manhattan to protest President Trump's Executive order imposing controls on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, January 29, 2017 in New York. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators watch from an overpass as a counter-protester holds a sign outside Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order blocking visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. Court decisions temporarily blocked the U.S. administration from enforcing parts of Trump's order after a day in which students, refugees and dual citizens were stuck overseas or detained and some businesses warned employees from those countries not to risk leaving the United States. Photographer: Dania Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A counter-protester, right, holds a sign and chants in front of other demonstrators outside Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) protesting against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order blocking visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. Court decisions temporarily blocked the U.S. administration from enforcing parts of Trump's order after a day in which students, refugees and dual citizens were stuck overseas or detained and some businesses warned employees from those countries not to risk leaving the United States. Photographer: Dania Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

A demonstrator in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rallies at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Police officers stand guard as demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

Trump supporters demonstrate against a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against the presidential order to ban travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on February 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Arriving international travelers pass through a line of Trump supporters demonstrating against a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against the presidential order to ban travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on February 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Trump supporters argue with a man (R) who supports a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle that grants a nationwide temporary restraining order against the presidential order to ban travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on February 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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Paxton said the full court should reconsider whether a lower court judge was justified in halting the ban.

U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle suspended Trump's order across the country on Feb. 3. Washington state argued that it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

That ruling was upheld by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit in San Francisco last week, raising questions about Trump's next step. The appeals court will soon vote on whether to reconsider the case with an 11-judge panel.

Trump's directive, which he said was necessary to protect the United States from attacks by Islamist militants, barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days. Refugees were banned for 120 days, except those from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

The rulings put the order on hold until the courts can rule on the underlying merits. Ultimately, they will have to address questions about the extent of the president's power on matters of immigration and national security.

Traditionally, judges have been extremely cautious about stepping on the executive branch's authority in such matters, legal experts said.

In the brief, Paxton said the order had a clear national security goal, to ensure proper vetting of foreigners seeking entry into the United States. It "reflects national-security interests implicated by the ongoing War on Terror against radical Islamic terrorists."

Paxton rejected any claim that the order discriminates against Muslims while favoring Christian minorities. If that argument is accepted, he said, it would jeopardize the government's ability to help persecuted religious minorities abroad by granting them refugee status.

Texas led the legal fight against President Barack Obama's plan to protect up to four million immigrants from deportation, joined by 25 other Republican-led states. The challengers won a February 2015 nationwide injunction blocking the program before it was due to go into effect.

In June 2016, the Supreme Court split 4-4 in the case, leaving in place an appeals court ruling in favor of the states..

A major question in that litigation was whether Texas had legal standing to sue, an issue that the Supreme Court did not resolve. In Wednesday's brief, Texas did not address whether Washington and other states had standing to sue over Trump's ban.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Grant McCool)


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