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A federal appeals court has rebuffed a bid by US President Donald Trump to resume a travel ban on refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, dealing a fresh legal setback to the administration’s efforts to move forward with a controversial policy that Mr Trump claims is crucial to national security.

A three-judge panel from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed a lower-court decision that froze the order’s implementation, in response to a lawsuit filed by the states of Washington and Minnesota arguing that the ban violated immigration law and the constitutional prohibition on discriminating against specific religions.

The court wrote: “(W)e hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.”

The travel order threw the nation’s airports into chaos and sparked widespread protests, as well as a number of lawsuits filed in courts around the country challenging the order’s legality.

After US District Judge John Robart last week froze implementation of the ban nationwide, the Trump administration challenged that decision, arguing that the president had broad authority to control immigration into the US and denying that it targeted travellers based solely on their religion.

The 9th Circuit rejected the administration’s argument that it was limited in its power to review executive actions on national security, writing that “while counseling deference to the national security determinations of the political branches, the Supreme Court has made clear that the government’s ‘authority and expertise in (such) matters do not automatically trump the court’s own obligation to secure the protection that the Constitution grants to individuals,’ even in times of war.”

Its 29-page ruling further noted: “The states’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions.” And the order noted that the government had not presented any evidence to support its claims that “any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”

Mr Trump has vowed to pursue the appeal further if necessary, which could lead him to seek review by the US Supreme Court.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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