Trump travel ban: US supreme court partially lifts block on order

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Supreme court agrees to hear arguments on legality of controversial order in the fall
after lifting significant elements of lower court orders to block ban
The US supreme court handed a partial victory to the Trump administration on Monday as it lifted significant elements of lower court orders blocking the president’s controversial travel ban targeting visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries.

The court said the ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen could be enforced as long as such people lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”.

The nation’s highest court agreed to hear arguments on the legality of Trump’s controversial order – which also temporarily suspends the US refugee resettlement program – in the autumn, paving the way for parts of the order to go into effect over the summer.

Much of Trump’s executive order, a revised version of a first travel ban that was rolled out chaotically in January, had been stayed – temporarily blocked – by federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii, meaning the ban had never taken effect.

These rulings were later upheld by federal appeals courts in California and Virginia, which found grounds that the order violated the establishment clause of the US constitution, which protects religious freedom, and also found Trump was likely to have exceeded his statutory authority granted by Congress.

The administration appealed these rulings to the supreme court, requesting that the nine justices temporarily revoke the lower court orders until a full hearing in October.

The ruling issued on Monday only grants part of the administration’s requests. While the ban will now be allowed to go into effect against those with no relationship to the US, those with ties to the country – like many of the plaintiffs in the Hawaii and Maryland cases – will remain unaffected by the ban.

It was unclear whether the administration would now move to enforce elements of the travel ban. The state department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling will nonetheless be seen as a blow to civil rights groups and a coalition of Democratic states, including New York, Hawaii and Washington, that brought the cases against Trump’s second order and had enjoyed a string of victories in the lower courts.

In response, Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said the ban remained “an unconstitutional and un-American assault on our country’s religious freedom”.

“Democrats will continue to fight this hatred every step of the way,” he said.

The executive director of Amnesty International USA, Margaret Huang, warned that reinstating elements of the ban may lead to chaos at airports around the US similar to that seen after the first ban was rolled out.

“Rather than keeping anyone safe,” Huang said, “this ban demonizes millions of innocent people and creates anxiety and instability for people who want to visit a relative, work, study, return to the country they call home, or just travel without fear.”

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