A federal appeals court denied early Sunday the Justice Department's request for an immediate reinstatement of President Donald Trump's ban on all refugees and nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries.
The Trump administration appealed a temporary order restraining the ban nationwide, saying late Saturday night that the federal judge in Seattle overreached by "second-guessing" the president on a matter of national security.
Now the higher court's denial of an immediate stay means the legal battles over the ban will continue for days at least. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco asked challengers of the ban to respond to the appeal, and for the Justice Department to file a counter-response by Monday afternoon.
Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in the government's brief on Saturday night that the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States - an assertion that appeared to invoke the wider battle to come over illegal immigration.
"The power to expel or exclude aliens is a fundamental sovereign attribute, delegated by Congress to the executive branch of government and largely immune from judicial control," the brief says.
Earlier Saturday, the government officially suspended the ban's enforcement in compliance with the order of US District Judge James Robart. It marks an extraordinary setback for the new president, who only a week ago acted to suspend America's refugee program and halt immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries the government said raise terrorism concerns.
Trump, meanwhile, mocked Robart, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, calling him a "so-called judge" whose "ridiculous" ruling "will be overturned."
"Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision," he tweeted.
He also tweeted that the "so-called" judge's attempt to block his executive order was illegitimate. He then questioned the principle of judicial independence, part of the checks and balances between the three branches of government: legislative, judicial and executive, which the designers of the constitution meant to make sure no one branch could seize a tyrannical level of power over the other two.
What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
Trump's direct attack recalled his diatribes during the campaign against the federal judge of Mexican heritage who oversaw lawsuits alleging fraud by Trump University, and may prompt some tough questions as these challenges rise through the courts.
But the government's brief repeatedly asserts that presidential authority cannot be questioned by judges once the nation's security is invoked.
Congress "vests complete discretion in the President" to impose conditions on alien entry, so Trump isn't legally required to justify such decisions, it says. His executive order said the ban is necessary for "protecting against terrorism," and that "is sufficient to end the matter."
The Justice Department asked that the federal judge's order be stayed pending resolution of the appeal, so that the ban can "ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism."
The order has caused unending confusion for many foreigners trying to reach the United States, prompted protests across the US and led to multiple court challenges. Demonstrations took place outside the White House, in New York and near Trump's estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he was attending the annual American Red Cross fundraising gala.
"We'll win," Trump told reporters Saturday night. "For the safety of the country, we'll win."
The State Department, after initially saying that as many as 60,000 foreigners from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen had their visas cancelled, reversed course on Saturday and said they could travel to the US if they had a valid visa.
The department on Saturday advised refugee aid agencies that refugees set to travel before Trump signed his order will now be allowed in. A State Department official said in an email obtained by The Associated Press that the government was "focusing on booking refugee travel" through February 17 and working to have arrivals resume as soon as Monday.
The Homeland Security Department was no longer directing airlines to prevent visa-holders affected by Trump's order from boarding US-bound planes. The agency said it had "suspended any and all actions" related to putting in place Trump's order.
Hearings have also been held in court challenges nationwide. Washington state and Minnesota argued that the temporary ban and the global suspension of the US refugee program harmed residents and effectively mandated discrimination.
In his written order Friday, Robart said it's not the court's job to "create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches," but rather, to make sure that an action taken by the government "comports with our country's laws."
The Justice Department countered that "judicial second-guessing of the President's national security determination in itself imposes substantial harm on the federal government and the nation at large."
TRT World's Malcolm Brown and Kahraman Halis Celik bring the latest from Washington Dulles and John F. Kennedy International Airports in Virginia and New York.