US Court questions Trump’s travel ban

A government lawyer defending President Donald Trump’s temporary entry ban faced intense scrutiny on Tuesday as judges questioned whether it unfairly targets people over their religion.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Protests against the Trump travel ban outside the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals courthouse in San Francisco, California on February 7, 2017.

The San Francisco based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday heard arguments over President Donald Trump’s temporary entry ban from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Trump’s January 27 executive order prevents travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days, while entry for all refugees has been suspended for 120 days. Trump also wants to ban refugees from Syria indefinitely.

A federal judge in Seattle, responding to the legal challenge, suspended the order on February 3.

Three judges from an appellate court in San Francisco chaired Tuesday's hour-long telephone hearing. The Justice Department's appeal against the temporary injunction was followed online by more than 130,000 people and broadcast live to millions more on television.

Critics of the ban say the order creates chaos and discriminates against Muslims. The government defends the measure as necessary for national security.

TRT World's Rachel Silverman is in San Francisco and has this update on the hearing.

Tough Questioning 

The US Court of Appeals panel asked August Flentje, a Justice Department lawyer and the Trump administration's attorney, tough questions about the evidence of danger posed by the people from seven countries.

Flentje said the "proceedings have been moving very fast," without giving specific examples.

Congress and the administration of former President Barack Obama determined that those countries posed the greatest risk of terrorism, he said.

Attorneys for the states of Washington and Minnesota argued that the travel ban specifically targeted Muslims – and was therefore unconstitutional.

Noah Purcell, solicitor general for the state of Washington, began his argument by urging the court to serve "as a check on executive abuses."

"The president is asking this court to abdicate that role here," Purcell said. "The court should decline that invitation." 

A ruling would be issued as soon as possible, the 9th Circuit said at the end of the session.

TRT World'Harry Horton has more detail on the day's hearing from Washington DC.

TRTWorld and agencies