US tech giants join battle against travel ban

Top technology giants, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft are banding together and have filed a legal brief opposing US President Donald Trump's immigration ban.VIDEO: REUTERS
Ms Sahar Yarjani Muranovic (left) welcoming her sister, Iranian student Sara Yarjani, upon her arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport in California on Sunday. Ms Yarjani had been detained for 23 hours during the travel ban.
Ms Sahar Yarjani Muranovic (left) welcoming her sister, Iranian student Sara Yarjani, upon her arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport in California on Sunday. Ms Yarjani had been detained for 23 hours during the travel ban.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Two ex-secretaries of state also claim order undermines national security

WASHINGTON • Fresh challenges to US President Donald Trump's court-frozen immigration order have emerged, with nearly 100 Silicon Valley tech companies arguing that it will keep the best minds from coming to America and two former secretaries of state claiming that the White House is undermining national security.

These came as the President continued to berate the judge who halted the Jan 27 order, and another legal showdown was expected as early as yesterday (this morning Singapore time) in the United States.

The decision on Sunday by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit preserved District Judge James Robart's order last Friday to temporarily halt the ban. Mr Trump responded to the development on Sunday by writing on Twitter that he had "instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country very carefully".

"Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril," he tweeted, referring to Judge Robart. "If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"

Technology giants - including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter and Uber - were among 97 companies that filed a joint legal brief late on Sunday opposing the immigration order.

  • Where the Trump travel ban stands

  • What does the Trump administration want?

    Lawyers for the federal government have asked the appeals court to stay a temporary restraining order issued last Friday by Judge James Robart of the United States District Court in Seattle.

    Acting on a request from two states, Washington and Minnesota, the judge temporarily banned the administration from enforcing two parts of Mr Trump's order: Its 90-day suspension of entry into the US of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and its limits on accepting refugees, including "any action that prioritises the refugee claims of certain religious minorities".

    The judge's order allowed people from the seven countries who had been authorised to travel, along with vetted refugees from all nations, to enter the United States. 

    What does the administration argue? 

    In its brief, the administration said Judge Robart had "improperly second-guessed the President's national security determinations". The brief said the President had vast power over immigration under the Constitution and federal law.

    What did the appeals court do? 

    The court declined to issue an immediate administrative stay, but it said it would consider the federal government's emergency motion for a stay after receiving more briefs, with the last one due yesterday afternoon.

    How fast will the appeals court act?

    There is every indication that the court will act promptly. 

    Who are the appeals court judges?

    The appeals court's order was issued by Judge William Canby Jr and Judge Michelle Friedland. They are two of the three 9th Circuit judges designated to hear motions this month. The third is Judge Richard Clifton. 

    Will the case reach the Supreme Court?

    Almost certainly. The losing side will very likely ask the justices to review the appeals court's ruling on the emergency stay. The ultimate decision on whether the executive order is lawful will not come quickly.

    That means people seeking to travel or settle here may be whipsawed until the case is finally resolved.


The brief claimed the order was a "significant departure" from US immigration policies and made "it more difficult and expensive for US companies to recruit, hire and retain some of the world's best employees".

It also charged that the ban, which temporarily barred all refugees and travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US, inflicted "significant harm on American business, innovation and growth as a result".

Hours later, two former secretaries of state - Mr John Kerry and Mrs Madeleine Albright - added their weight to a six-page joint statement saying the order "undermined" national security and would "endanger US troops in the field". The rare declaration was also backed by former top officials, including Mr Leon Panetta, who was defence secretary in the Obama administration.

In the meantime, people who had been stranded in legal limbo rushed to fly back to the US. Some successfully reunited with family members, while others - particularly those whose visas were physically taken or marked as invalid - ran into roadblocks trying to board planes overseas.

What lies ahead is likely to be a weeks-long battle that will be waged in courtrooms across the country over whether Mr Trump's ban can pass legal muster.

The Trump administration has been steadfast in its support of the executive order, which it says is necessary for national security, and the President himself tweeted repeatedly his disdain for Judge Robart, calling him a "so-called judge".

Some Republicans in Congress, such as Senator Ben Sasse, took issue with Mr Trump's comments.

"I don't understand language like that," said Senator Sasse. "We don't have so-called judges, we don't have so-called senators, we don't have so-called presidents. We have people from three different branches of government who take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution... So, we don't have any so-called judges. We have real judges."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'US tech giants join battle against travel ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe