Rejecting the Trump Administration’s latest attempt to curb immigration to the U.S. for Mideast nationals and for refugees from around the globe, a federal appeals court on Thursday gave a broad reading on who may enter despite the President’s executive order. The Justice Department promptly vowed to take the issue back to the Supreme Court.
A three-judge judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Trump order went too far in excluding some Mideast nationals who have relatives in the U.S., and ordered the government to admit overseas grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
For refugees from any nation, the panel ruled that the government must admit any of them that have been given a formal assurance that, when they arrive in the U.S., they will be resettled by one of nine refugee-relief agencies. That part of the order could quickly apply to some 24,000 refugees who already have such promises.
The ruling in favor of the admission of family relatives keeps intact what already is occurring, because the Supreme Court in a temporary order on July 19 refused to interfere with the ruling to that effect by a federal judge in Hawaii; that ruling was upheld Thursday by the Ninth Circuit panel.
The part of the new decision to benefit refugees with formal promises of resettlement will take effect in five days, the panel ruled. The Supreme Court’s July 19 order had temporarily blocked that benefit for refugees, but did so only until the Ninth Circuit Court had reviewed it. Presumably, the Supreme Court order will now be lifted, permitting the Circuit Court decision to go into effect in five days. The Hawaii judge had also ruled in favor of refugees on that point, and that was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court in its new ruling.
The panel said it was speeding up the effective date of that part of its ruling (normally, that would not have taken effect for at least 52 days, it said) because it said that “refugees’ lives remain in vulnerable limbo” while the Supreme Court order postponing that benefit has been in effect. The panel added: “Refugees have only a narrow window of time to complete their travel, as certain security and medical checks expire and must then be re-initiated. Even short delays may prolong a refugee’s admittance.”
The Justice Department reacted to the new ruling with this statement: “The Supreme Court has stepped in to correct these lower courts before and we will now return to the Supreme Court to vindicate the Executive Branch’s duty to protect the Nation.”
Since President Trump in March issued the executive order that was at issue in the new Ninth Circuit Court decision — as it had contended, as it did with an initial such order that was issued in January but was withdrawn after being blocked in lower courts — the Administration has argued that the limits on immigration from nationals from six Mideast nations and on the arrival of refugees from any nation was necessary to give the government time to tighten entry reviews in order to protect the nation against the possible entry of terrorists.
What was at issue in the new Circuit Court ruling was the scope of the government’s current enforcement authority under the March 6 executive order, not whether any part of that order was valid legally or constitutionally. That broader question is scheduled to be taken up by the Supreme Court at a hearing on October 10, soon after the opening of the Justices’ new term.
The Ninth Circuit panel issued its decision “per curiam,” meaning that no single judge had authored it and that it spoke for the panel as a whole. On the panel were Circuit Judges Ronald J. Gould and Richard A Paez and Senior Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins.
In their 35-page opinion, they rejected, one by one, all of the Trump legal team’s arguments to limit the entry of overseas relatives and of refugees and accepted all of the arguments that had been made by lawyers for the state of Hawaii and for a Muslim imam in that state.