Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump travel ban

WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday set up a major showdown over presidential powers, agreeing to decide the legality of President Donald Trump's latest travelban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries.

The conservative-majority court is due to hear arguments in April and issue a ruling by the end of June on whether the policy violates federal immigration law or the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on religious discrimination. Trump's policy, announced in September, blocks entry into the United States of most people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The legal fight involves the third version of a contentious policy Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January 2017.


SEE ALSO: Alleged anti-Muslim terrorists ask for Kansas jury in heavier pro-Trump district

 

The Supreme Court on Dec. 4 signaled it was likely to uphold the ban when, on a 7-2 vote, it let it go into full effect while legal challenges by the state of Hawaii and others continued. Lower courts had partially blocked the ban.

The Republican president has said the policy is needed to protect the United States from terrorism by Islamic militants.

Those challenging the travel ban have argued that it was motivated by Trump's enmity toward Muslims, pressing that point in court with some success by citing statements he made as a candidate and as president.

As a candidate, Trump promised "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." As president, he has rescinded protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, sought to ramp up deportations and pursued new measures restricting legal immigration.

In November, he shared on Twitter anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.

"We have always known this case would ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court. This will be an important day for justice and the rule of law. We look forward to the court hearing the case," said Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, a Democrat.

Trump's ban also covered people from North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela, but lower courts had already allowed those provisions to go into effect.

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Protests against Trump's proposed travel ban
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Protests against Trump's proposed travel ban
People protest U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
A man holds an umbrella during a protest of U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
A protester from Amnesty International rallies against U.S. President Donald Trump's new executive order temporarily banning the entry of refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries in Sydney, Australia, March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Demonstrator protests against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
A woman protests against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
Chrissy Pearce protests outside the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals courthouse in San Francisco, California February 7, 2017, ahead of the Court hearing arguments regarding President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. REUTERS/Noah Berger
Demonstrators protest against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Demonstrators protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: Protestors rally in front of the Trump Building on Wall Street during a protest against the Trump administration's proposed travel ban and refugee policies, March 28, 2017 in New York City. The Trump administration's proposed travel ban includes a provision that would bar refugees entry into the United States for 120 days. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: Protestors place photographs of refugees in rafts in front of the Trump Building on Wall Street during a protest against the Trump administration's proposed travel ban and refugee policies, March 28, 2017 in New York City. The Trump administration's proposed travel ban includes a provision that would bar refugees entry into the United States for 120 days. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 16: Demonstrators protest outside the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 16, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstrators were protesting the revised travel ban that the administration of President Donald Trump was trying to implement. The ban, which would restrict travel from six predominantly Muslim countries, was supposed to be instituted today but was halted yesterday by a federal judge in Hawaii. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather near The White House to protest President Donald Trump's travel ban on six Muslim countries on March 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Tasos Katopodis (Photo credit should read TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather near The White House to protest President Donald Trump's travel ban on six Muslim countries on March 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Tasos Katopodis (Photo credit should read TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 3: Protestors write messages directed toward President Donald Trump on lanterns near the Washington Monument, February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. The protest is aimed at President Trump's travel ban policy. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Thousands of protesters with banners and placards march through central London during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump on February 4, 2017 in London, England. Thousands of protesters march from the U.S. Embassy in London to Downing Street today against President Trump's executive order banning immigration to the USA from seven Muslim countries. (Photo by Jay Shaw Baker/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 29: Linda Sarsour attends a rally to protest the executive order that President Donald Trump signed clamping down on refugee admissions and temporarily restricting travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries in New York City on January 29, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 03: Demonstrators protest against US President Donald Trump's ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US on February 3, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. The demonstrators are protesting against United States President Donald Trump's travel ban affecting citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Rosalie Gurna, 9, holds a sign in support of Muslim family members as people protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on Muslim majority countries, at the International terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban in New York City, U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Demonstrators participate in a protest by the Yemeni community against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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'THE NATION'S INTEREST'

The case represents a high-profile test of presidential powers. In court papers, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing for the Trump administration, said the president has "broad authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens outside the United States when he deems it in the nation's interest."

The latest ban was introduced on Sept. 24 after what Francisco called an "extensive, worldwide review" to determine which foreign governments provide information required by the United States to vet those seeking entry. The countries on the list are those that do not share that information or present "other heightened risk factors," Francisco said.

Hawaii's lead lawyer Neal Katyal said in court papers that the president has only limited authority to exclude entry of people from other countries.

Under a U.S. law called the Immigration and Nationality Act, a president can restrict entry only of those deemed a potential threat or in certain emergency situations. The law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality.

The law does not "surrender to the president a boundless authority to set the rules of entry and override the immigration laws at will," Katyal said in court papers.

After the current ban was announced, courts in Seattle and Maryland ruled it was unlawful, prompting the administration to appeal. Before the Supreme Court's December order, the lower courts also had allowed the ban to go into effect for those with no close relatives in the United States or "formal, documented" relationships with U.S.-based entities such as universities and resettlement agencies.

In the Hawaii challenge, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that Trump's ban violated federal immigration law. It did not decide whether the ban violated the Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union pursued a separate legal challenge filed in Maryland that is now before the Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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