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Ruling also affirms block on refugee ban, but allows review of vetting procedures

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2017 (San Francisco) --  A second federal appeals court has blocked nearly all of President Donald Trump’s executive order  that included a 90-day travel ban from six mainly Muslim nations, though the two courts found different rationales for their rulings, the New York Times reports.

On Monday, a three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously found that Trump exceeded the statutory authority granted to him by Congress to make national security judgments on immigration without adequate justification.  In addition to blocking the travel ban, the court also upheld a lower court ruling blocking a 120-day suspension of refugee admissions to the U.S. and Trump's reduction of the cap on refugee admissions to 50,000 this year, down from 110,000 last year. 

But the court found that the lower court erred in blocking a review of vetting procedures from moving forward while the appeals process proceeds. That’s important,  since it opens the door for the U.S. Supreme Court to refuse to hear  appeals on the “Muslim ban,” as opponents have dubbed it,  since it could be moot if the 90 days have run out by the time it reaches the high court.

“The order does not offer a sufficient justification to suspend the entry of more than 180 million people on the basis of nationality,” the Ninth Circuit ruiling states.  The judges noted that the order does not tie any of the individuals to terrorist groups, nor did the administration provide any statistical link between country of origin and propensity to commit terrorism in the U.S.

Previously the Fourth Circuit Court in Virgina also overturned the travel ban from Muslim nations, but on different grounds. The Fourth Circuit held that the ban violated First Amendment rights, which prohibit government establishment of religion.  The Trump administration, prior to the Ninth Circuit court ruilng, had already asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency hearing on the travel ban.

The ban originally included seven nations, but was revised after an earlier court ruling to exclude Iraq.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions  issued a statement criticizing the court’s action, USA Today reports.  “President Trump knows that the country he has been elected to lead is threatened daily by terrorists who believe in a radical ideology, and that there are active plots to infiltrate the U.S. immigration system -- just as occurred prior to 9/11,” said Sessions, adding, “The president is committed to protecting the American people and our national security."

Shayan Modarres, legal counsel for the National Iranian American Counsel  issued a statement that despite the  ruling against what he calls “the Trump administration’s racist and anti-Muslim immigration policies,” the travel ban effectively remains in place.

“Visas issued to Iranians have fallen by 52 percent and Iranians are now subject to months of inter-agency background checks and forced to hand over years of travel history and social media accounts to immigration officials,” he says, adding, "Instead of an overt Muslim ban, the administration is carrying out a backdoor ban away from the spotlight.“  Modarrres notes that while the court blocked a outright ban based on country of origin, it did not block extreme vetting procedures. He called on Congress to intervene to end the President’s executive order and “any backdoor bans once and for all.”

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