Appeals court deals blow to Trump administration travel ban
A federal appeals court has dealt another blow to President Donald Trump's revised travel ban targeting six-Muslim majority countries.
The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that blocks the Republican's administration from temporarily suspending new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit is the first appeals court to rule on the revised travel ban, which President Trump's administration had hoped would avoid the legal problems that the first version encountered.
"Congress granted the president broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation," the chief judge of the circuit, Roger L Gregory wrote.
President Trump will likely appeal to the US Supreme Court.
A central question in the case is whether courts should consider President Trump's past statements about wanting to bar Muslims from entering the country.
The federal judge in Maryland who blocked the travel ban cited comments made by President Trump and his aides during the campaign and after the election as evidence that the policy was primarily motivated by the religion.
Mr Trump's administration argued that the court should not look beyond the text of the executive order, which does not mention religion.
The countries were not chosen because they are predominantly Muslim but because they present terrorism risks, the administration says.
Some of the 13 judges on the appeals court that heard arguments earlier this month seemed sceptical of the administration's argument.
"Don't we get to consider what was actually said here and said very explicitly?" said Judge James Wynn Jr, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Other judges worried about using a candidate's word to evaluate a policy's motive.
"Can we look at his college speeches? How about his speeches to businessmen 20 years ago?" said Judge Paul Niemeyer, who was tapped by President George HW Bush, a Republican.
The White House said it remains confident that Mr Trump's travel ban is lawful and ultimately will be upheld by the courts.
Spokesman Michael Short said the administration needs "every available tool at our disposal" to keep terrorists from entering the United States and committing violence.
He quoted one of the dissenting judges, Dennis W Shedd, in saying that the "real losers" are the millions of individual Americans whose security is threatened daily by those who seek to harm the US.