U.S President Donald Trump’s administration defended an order which suspends the U.S. refugee programme and prohibits travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations as within the president’s authority.
A pair of states challenging the policy charged it would create chaos.
“The executive order is a lawful exercise of the president’s authority over the entry of aliens into the U.S. and the admission of refugees,” the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department made a legal filing in response to a court order that temporarily lifted the restrictions.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco set a hearing for oral arguments by the U.S. Justice Department and the two states challenging the order, Washington state and Minnesota, at 3 p.m. today.
The Justice Department also argued that the states did not have standing to challenge immigration law, which is a matter for the national government.
It claimed the ban was not targeted at Muslims, as critics have said, but instead focused on countries with high terrorism risks.
Legal challenges have been mounted across the U.S. against the measure, which blocked entry to most citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.
However, it was a U.S. district judge’s ruling on Friday that put a temporary nationwide hold on Trump’s order.
The San Francisco circuit court affirmed that decision in a first ruling on Sunday, but gave the parties until Monday to file legal briefs.
Lawyers for Washington and Minnesota argued in their brief that the travel ban caused “extraordinary and irreparable harms” to residents and businesses and violated the Constitution’s ban against religious discrimination.
“On Jan. 27, President Trump unleashed chaos by signing the
executive order at issue here,” lawyers for the two states wrote.
Restoring the ban “would reinstitute those harms, separating families, stranding our university students and faculty and barring travel.”
Trump defended the order, saying the U.S. needs “strong programmes” to vet would-be immigrants and refugees.
“We need strong programmes so that people who love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country will be let in.
“Not people who want to destroy us and want to destroy our country,” Trump told members of the military after visiting Central Command headquarters in Florida.
A host of outside groups were filing briefs in support of the case, with civil rights groups, technology companies, law professors and universities among those voicing opposition to Trump’s policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in a brief saying “the order is motivated by bias against Muslims, as confirmed by the president’s own public statements.
It argued the policy clashed with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on state establishment of religion.
A group of former diplomatic, intelligence and defence officials, including former secretaries of state John Kerry and Madeleine Albright said there was no “specific threat” to justify such a policy.
They said that it would ultimately undermine U.S. national security.
Meanwhile, nearly 100 technology companies and other businesses, including Apple, Facebook and Google, argued that the policy would inflict “significant harm” on U.S. business.
The court is not expected to rule directly on the constitutionality of the ban, but only to focus narrowly on whether it should be halted as it winds its way through the legal process.
The losing side is almost certain to ask for further judicial review at the Supreme Court in Washington.
Trump justified the executive order against citizens of the seven “terror-prone” countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen on national security grounds.
The order also suspends the U.S. refugee programme for 120 days.
The immigration order, which was swiftly condemned by world leaders and human rights groups, caused confusion and disarray at airports around the world.
Most airlines tried to determine if passengers could legally enter the U.S. or not.
Trump came under renewed criticism during the weekend when he took to twitter to blast the judge who put his travel ban on ice.