(UPI) — A San Francisco-based federal appellate court on Tuesday listened to arguments from — and had plenty of questions for — attorneys on each side of President Donald Trump’s frozen immigration and refugee order.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case Tuesday afternoon via telephone — as none of its three judges were present at the downtown San Francisco courthouse.
In addition to presenting their arguments, an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department and one representing two states challenging the president’s order were rigorously questioned by the panel about why Trump’s executive action should, or should not be, allowed to stand.
Under Trump’s executive order, refugees from Syria are denied U.S. entry indefinitely, refugees from all other countries are suspended for 120 days, and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria and Yemen are barred for 90 days. The suspensions are intended to give Trump’s administration time to make threat assessments for a permanent migrant and refugee policy.
Trump signed the order Jan. 27 but it was almost immediately challenged in federal court. A restraining order blocked the ban two days after it was signed, and a Boston court refused to extend it last Friday. A short time later, however, an appeals court in Seattle issued a new injunction, which led to this week’s proceedings in San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit Court.
Justice Department attorney August E. Flentje made Trump’s case first at Tuesday’s hearing, arguing that the president was well within his broad legal authority granted by Congress and the U.S. Constitution to take whatever actions are necessary to safeguard the national interest — and that such executive determinations should be “unreviewable.”
Flentje told the judges that Trump has determined that a real threat exists in allowing immigrants from the aforementioned Muslim-majority countries to enter the United States. He also said former President Barack Obama’s administration had even considered those nations suspect in terror matters.
That argument, though, was questioned by the court, which asked if the Justice Department could produce any solid evidence that travelers from those nations would truly pose a risk of terrorism. Flentje said there is no such proof on record.
“It’s pretty abstract,” one judge said.
The court also refuted the government’s argument that the plaintiffs in the case, the states of Washington and Minnesota, cannot legally challenge the president’s order with their lawsuit.