WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court Monday canceled oral arguments that had been set for Oct. 10 on President Donald Trump’s contentious travel ban.
The high court ordered both sides to file briefs in by Oct. 5 on whether parts of the ban have been rendered moot by the expanded travel ban Trump imposed Sunday night.
In two cases before the court — Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. Hawaii — the administration had challenged lower court rulings blocking the ban.
Monday’s unsigned, one-paragraph order came in response to U.S. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco’s letter to the Supreme Court suggesting both sides file briefs by Oct. 5 in light of the expanded ban the president ordered Sunday night.
“The cases are removed from the oral argument calendar, pending further order of the Court,” the justices said in Monday’s order.
In a Sunday night proclamation, Trump said the countries targeted in the new ban had refused to share information the U.S. government had requested on terrorism, visa security, criminal histories and other issues related to national security.
The new restrictions retained five of the six Muslim-majority countries covered by a March 6 executive order imposing the president’s second travel ban — Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen — but dropped Sudan, which administration officials said had complied with U.S. security requirements.
The new ban added North Korea, Chad and Venezuela.
Unlike the 90-day March ban, which would have expired Sunday night, the new ban on entries is indefinite and eliminates exceptions for those with “bona fide” relationships with a person or organization in the U.S. The Supreme Court had allowed the Trump administration to impose a partial travel ban, but said it could apply only to those who lack such a relationship.
Trump’s second travel ban had been put on hold by lower courts – in rulings upheld by federal appeals courts – hours before it was to take effect in March.
Earlier Monday, Muslim and immigrant groups Monday denounced Trump’s new expanded travel ban, calling it “Islamaphobic” and saying it unconstitutionally discriminates against Muslims.
“It seems this is just the beginning of more discrimination practices by the administration,” Debbie Almontaser, president of the Muslim Community Network, told reporters during a conference call. “President Trump campaigned on excluding Muslims and began his presidency banning Muslims from the U.S. His bias, bigotry and discrimination against communities of color continue to seep into his policies in violation of our Constitution.”
The new restrictions, Almontaser said, don’t “change the fact that this is a Muslim ban that discriminates against people based on their religious and ethnic background.”
“The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the U.S. — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said. “President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”
Zahra Billoo, director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest American Muslim civil rights organization, called the new order from Trump “another attempt to hide the executive order’s discriminatory purpose. … Instead of promoting values that uplift our nation, the president continues to pander to an extremist, white supremacist base.”
Like other critics, Billoo noted only about 100 North Koreans received visas to travel to the U.S. in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2016, and that the new restrictions on Venezuela cover only government officials and their relatives.
The Washington-based National Immigration Law Center, co-counsel in Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project, pledged to fight the latest iteration of Trump’s travel ban.
“This new Muslim ban, just like each prior version of it, is morally reprehensible and legally indefensible,” said Marielena Hincapi, the center’s executive director.
“Our communities have always known this, and the federal circuit courts of appeal have consistently agreed…. “We will work—inside and outside the courtroom—to make sure there is no Muslim ban ever,” Hincapi added, calling the latest travel ban a “hateful and divisive policy.”
In the proclamation, Trump once again called the travel restrictions — they also include a 120-day suspension of most refugee entries – crucial to protecting the U.S. from terrorism.
“We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country,” the proclamation said. “My highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred obligation.”
In a tweet just after issuing the new restrictions, Trump said: “Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.”
Elaine C. Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, sounded a similar theme in a statement Monday, saying the new ban would “protect Americans and allow DHS to better keep terrorists and criminals from entering our country.”
Duke called the new restrictions “tough and tailored,” adding, “They send a message to foreign governments that they must work with us to enhance security.”
Muslim and immigration groups had planned major demonstrations against the ban on Oct. 10 outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments and in cities across the country, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle and Michigan. The groups have launched a website, NoMuslimBanEver.com, and a Twitter hashtag, #NoMuslimBanEver.
This marks the third travel ban Trump has imposed. The first, imposed in an executive order a week into his presidency, unleashed chaos at airports, mass protests in the U.S. and worldwide, condemnation from a broad spectrum of international leaders — and unprecedented attacks by a president on the federal judiciary after judges blocked his travel ban.
Critics said the original ban as well as the second one discriminated against Muslims, violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which forbids the government from favoring any religion over another, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
But hours before the current travel ban was to expire Sunday night, a senior administration official denied that the ban discriminated against Muslims.
Two federal appeals courts upheld lower court rulings blocking the March ban. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in June that Trump exceeded his executive authority in imposing the revised travel ban. And in March, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ban discriminated against Muslims, violating the Constitution.