A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, consisting of three judges, unanimously upheld a restraining order blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the president’s immigration and refugee order targeting Muslim-majority countries.
“We 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 panel wrote in their 29-page decision.
Although much of the discussion involved the ban’s constitutionality, the panel’s ruling mainly focused on whether Judge James Robart’s temporary restraining order – which blocked the federal government from enforcing key aspects of the executive order while legal proceedings continue – was justified. Judge Robart, who was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2004, imposed the temporary restraining order on Friday (February 3, 2017).
The case, Washington v. Trump, is the most important lawsuit which challenged the president’s immigration and refugee order. Led by Democratic attorneys-general of Washington state and Minnesota, they claimed the executive order would harm both states’ economies and tax bases by obstructing the ability of their noncitizen immigrants to travel, as well as violate the First Amendment’s religious-freedom protections and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection guarantee by targeting Muslims exclusively.
While the panel did not rule on the merits of those arguments, they did determine that the states possessed proper standing to bring the lawsuit against the federal government. To have standing in a lawsuit, the states must prove they have a direct stake in the outcome, which the judges addressed the impact on higher-education systems, foreign-born students, and faculty.
The Trump administration defended its order based on national-security grounds, stating it was necessary while the federal government conducts a thorough investigation of the country’s security procedures at the border. However, that argument won little merit among the panel, who noted the lack of proof provides by the Justice Department lawyers during oral arguments on Wednesday.
“The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” the judges wrote. “Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree.”
Before the ruling, the order had enforced a U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, which barred Syrian refugees from admission until further notice, and suspended immigrant and non-immigrant visa travel from seven Muslim-majority countries from 90 days. The visa suspensions resulted in immense disruptions at major U.S. airports as some travelers found themselves unable to enter the country.