Seattle judges hear arguments on president's travel ban

On Monday a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle heard Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the ban, which would suspend the nation's refugee program and temporarily bar new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Ninth Circuit panel is tasked with deciding whether to lift a court order, put in place by a lower federal judge in March, that blocks the Trump administration from implementing two key provisions in the revised executive order.

The judges on Monday did not indicate when they would issue their ruling in the case, which is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

The Trump administration says the temporary ban on refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen - is motivated by national security concerns, an area where U.S. presidents have wide powers.

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who represented the federal government at Monday's hearing, told the 9th Circuit that the Supreme Court has made it clear that all the executive branch needs to show is a "legitimate" and "bona fide" goal when deciding whom to exclude from the country.

Opponents - including the state of Hawaii and civil rights groups - have said that both Trump's first ban and later revised ban discriminate against Muslims.

That order was halted by a federal judge in Seattle.

Lawyers for the Trump administration have asked the 9th Circuit to permit enforcement of the presidential order, which the court is considering on an expedited schedule. It was the first federal appeals court ruling that determined gay marriage bans were unconstitutional. But he also said he hasn't read the text of Roosevelt's order.

This is the second time that the ninth circuit, which covers the western United States and is generally considered the most liberal of the appeals courts, has heard arguments over the travel ban.

One of the high points of Katyal's argument, in fact, was to use the setting of the Ninth Circuit hearing to link the Trump order to the infamous order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II to imprison tens of thousands of Americans - including citizens - of Japanese ancestry because of group suspicion of their loyalty.

The case before the 9th Circuit yesterday was filed by the state of Hawaii and Ismail Elshikh, a US citizen of Egyptian descent who serves as the head of a Hawaii mosque and is hoping to bring his mother-in-law, a Syrian national, to the United States.

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Katyal said Trump could formally disavow his earlier comments and say Islam was a peaceful religion, as did former President George W. Bush. As evidence, he rattled off an extensive list of amicus briefs submitted in favor of striking down Trump's order.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday that the administration was confident the executive order would be upheld by the appeals court.

Wall urged Gould to ignore campaign statements and focus instead on the wording of the revised order.

It is no less than outrageous this order is even being dragged through the courts. But the judge wondered whether Trump is forever forbidden from adopting an executive order along the lines of his travel ban.

"I want to be very clear about this", Wall said solemnly.

He said the rhetoric showed "significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus".

Arguing that the United States needed to tighten national security measures, Trump's attempt to limit travel was one of his first major acts in office.

"This is a very limited, very unusual case when you have the public statements by the president".

Wall was formerly a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and has argued before the nation's top court 11 times. Because of how the courts chose to proceed, a full slate of 13 judges heard the 4th Circuit arguments last week, while just three, all appointees of President Bill Clinton, will sit in Seattle. And then it takes that information and packages it as a temporary travel ban - a 90 day temporary travel ban - on people trying to come to America from those countries. "We fully believe that", Spicer said.

"No matter how the two courts rule, I predict this case will go to the Supreme Court", agreed Cornell Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr.

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