US Justice Dept says travel ban vital for nation's safety

US President Donald Trump visiting the US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, on Monday. During the visit, he accused the media of downplaying the terror threat his administration cites to justify its travel ban.
US President Donald Trump visiting the US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, on Monday. During the visit, he accused the media of downplaying the terror threat his administration cites to justify its travel ban.PHOTO: REUTERS

It files brief urging court to reinstate restrictions; ruling almost certain to be followed by appeal to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON • The United States Justice Department has urged a federal appeals court to reinstate US President Donald Trump's targeted travel ban, saying that immediate action was needed to ensure the nation's safety.

The administration's brief on Monday evening (yesterday morning Singapore time) was the last in a series of urgent pleas to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which is set to rule on the most ambitious and disruptive initiative of Mr Trump's presidency.

The ruling will almost certainly be followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The court scheduled an hour- long oral argument for yesterday. That gave at least another day of reprieve to foreign visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, as well as other immigrants, who were initially blocked from entering the United States by Mr Trump's order.

The Justice Department argued that "the executive order is a lawful exercise of the President's authority over the entry of aliens into the United States and the admission of refugees".

REACTION IN CHINA

In a country claiming to be the most democratic and most based on rule of law, for a president to lead the charge in scolding judges... makes him no different from a bully without dignity!

JUDGE HE FAN of the Supreme People's Court of China, on his public WeChat social media page, commenting on President Donald Trump.

The administration's brief largely tracked its earlier arguments that dismissing the ban outright would threaten national security and disregard presidential authority.

But it also asked the appeals court, at a minimum, to reinstate at least part of Mr Trump's order - appearing to acknowledge the possibility that the government's case might not be successful.

"Even if some relief were appropriate, the court's sweeping nationwide injunction is vastly overbroad," it said.

At most, the brief said, the court order blocking the ban should be limited to "previously admitted aliens who are temporarily abroad now or who wish to travel and return to the United States in the future".

That would allow the federal government to block people who have never visited the United States.

On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration stood ready to reinstate the entire ban.

Two new polls show a majority of Americans now oppose the travel ban, but Mr Trump has shown no sign of bending, pushing back late on Monday in a new Twitter salvo.

"The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle East. Courts must act fast!" he wrote.

Earlier in the day, during a visit to the US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, Mr Trump accused the media of downplaying the terror threat that his administration cites to justify its ban, saying they purposefully ignored atrocities by radical Islamists.

Although Mr Trump failed to provide evidence of a conspiracy by the media, the White House later distributed a list of 78 attacks it said were "executed or inspired by" the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, saying that most failed to receive adequate media coverage - without specifying which ones.

Trial judges have blocked aspects of Mr Trump's executive order, which suspended travel from the seven countries and limited the nation's refugee programme, but none of those cases has reached an appeals court. And none of the lower-court rulings has been as broad as the one under review in the case of State of Washington v Trump.

The 9th Circuit scheduled the oral argument for 3pm Pacific time yesterday (7am Singapore time today). It is to take place by telephone.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'US Justice Dept says travel ban vital for nation's safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe