WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump praised the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to review the legality of his temporary ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees, and to allow it to be partly implemented in the meantime.
"Today's unanimous Supreme Court decision is a clear victory for our national security," Mr Trump said in a statement released by the White House, adding: "Today's ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our nation's homeland."
The case represents a major test of presidential powers. The justices, in their unsigned decision, granted parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put the order into effect immediately while the legal battle continues.
The case is Mr Trump's first major challenge at the Supreme Court, where he restored a 5-4 conservative majority with the appointment of Mr Neil Gorsuch, who joined the bench in April.
There are five Republican appointees on the court and four Democratic appointees.
Three of the court's conservatives said they would have granted Mr Trump's request in full, including Mr Gorsuch.
However, Justice Clarence Thomas warned that requiring officials to differentiate between foreigners who have connections to the US and those who do not will prove unworkable.
"Today's compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding - on peril of contempt - whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country," Justice Thomas wrote.
The decision endorsed the Trump administration's contention that the President deserves greater deference from the courts on national security matters.
Mr Trump's March 6 order called for a 90-day ban on travellers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the US. He has called the March order a "watered down, politically correct" version of one he issued in January, just a week after he became President, that was blocked by federal courts.
The revised order was intended to overcome the legal issues posed by the original ban, which included Iraq among the nations targeted and a full ban on refugees from Syria. The revised order also jettisoned language that gave preferential status to persecuted religious minorities, which critics said could be taken as favouring some religious groups over Muslims.
But the order still embodied Mr Trump's "America First" nationalist message and reflected his views of the dangers posed to the US by certain immigrants and visitors.
The state of Hawaii and a group of plaintiffs in Maryland represented by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the order violated federal immigration law and the Constitution's First Amendment prohibition on the government favouring or disfavouring any particular religion.
Regional federal appeals courts in Virginia and California both upheld district judge injunctions blocking the order.
Nevertheless, following the top court's order, the travel ban order is now due to partly go into effect in 72 hours, based on a memorandum issued by the Trump administration on June 14.
REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE