SAN FRANCISCO — President Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel to the U.S. from six mostly Muslim countries, Venezuela and North Korea were largely struck down by a federal appeals court, raising uncertainty as the fight heads for a final showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court.
A regional appeals court based in San Francisco, one of two panels reviewing the third version of the president’s travel ban, concluded Friday that it continues to illegally discriminate against travelers just as earlier executive orders did. The three-judge panel also ruled, however, that Trump can continue to bar or limit entry by people from the Mideast and North African nations if they don’t have a relationship with a U.S.-based person or institution.
The nation’s high court signaled on Dec. 5 that it may ultimately uphold the restrictions that were issued in September when it allowed them to temporarily take full effect while the litigation play out. But there’s no guarantee the justices will allow the administration to enforce the ban indefinitely after scrutinizing it more thoroughly.
“For the third time, we are called upon to assess the legality of the president’s efforts to bar over 150 million nationals of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States or being issued immigrant visas that they would ordinarily be qualified to receive,” according to the panel, all of whose judges were appointed by President Bill Clinton. “We conclude that the president’s issuance of the proclamation once again exceeds the scope of his delegated authority.”
The dispute won’t return to the Supreme Court until after a Richmond, Va.-based appeals court rules.
Friday’s ruling marks another victory for states, advocacy groups, technology companies and universities that successfully challenged the first executive order and its replacement as being at odds with nation’s founding principles and hurting the economy.
In a roiling legal battle that began in January, courts have had to weigh the president’s prerogative to set policy on national security against allegations that he overstepped his authority under federal immigration law and violated the U.S. Constitution by targeting Muslims.
After multiple revisions to Trump’s initiative, the judges on the San Francisco court said the administration still doesn’t comport with the law in how it has chosen to target nations it suspects of harboring terrorists.
The case is Hawaii v. Trump, 17-17168, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, San Francisco.