Battle Over Trump’s Immigration Travel Ban Escalates

People gathered outside the Supreme Court on June 26, 2017 to await a ruling on President Trump’s travel ban on visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries.
(Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA)

WASHINGTON — The battle over President Trump’s effort to ban travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations and thousands of international refugees from around the world escalated Monday on two fronts.

With a Supreme Court showdown less than a month away, lawyers for immigrant rights groups told the justices that the temporary travel ban’s intent is to block Muslims from entering the United States, which violates the Constitution.

“Plaintiffs and the rest of the country cannot close their eyes to the president’s condemnation of Islam; this Court should not either,” the American Civil Liberties Union argued in court papers.

On a separate track, Trump administration lawyers asked the court to set aside a federal appeals court ruling that would allow more refugees into the United States while the case is pending. Justice Anthony Kennedy agreed to block that ruling, at least until Tuesday, when the more liberal interpretation is due to take effect to help what the appeals court said were “gravely imperiled” refugees.

The administration argued that by granting entry to any refugees whose countries have ties to a resettlement agency, the lower courts went far beyond the type of personal relationship Trump required. Justice Department lawyers cited the justices’ examples from their June 26 decision regarding the types of refugees who should be admitted: “students who have been admitted to study at an American university, workers who have accepted jobs at an American company, and lecturers who come to speak to an American audience.”

But the Justice Department dropped its objections to another part of the lower court ruling expanding the scope of relatives of U.S. citizens who are exempt from the ban on travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The Supreme Court previously ruled that grandparents and other more distant relatives should qualify for the exemption.

The flurry of court filings represented further indication that the two sides remain far apart on the controversial travel ban as it nears an Oct. 10 oral argument before the high court.

By Richard Wolf for USA TODAY
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