The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his temporary bans on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries until it reviews it later this year.
The court also allowed the ban on all refugees to go into effect for people with no connection to the U.S. while agreeing to hear his appeals in the closely watched legal fight.
It narrowed the scope of lower court rulings that had completely blocked Trump’s March 6 executive order.
The court said that it would hear arguments on the legality of one of Trump’s signature policies in his first months as president in the court’s next term, which starts in October.
It granted parts of his administration’s emergency request to put the order into effect immediately while the legal battle continues.
Two U.S. appeals courts had upheld lower court decisions halting the ban to allow legal challenges on the basis of religious discrimination. The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court.
The March 6 executive order had banned the new visas from being issued to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.
It also sought to halt issuances of new refugee admissions from around the world for 120 days.
The order was however blocked by federal judges before going into effect on March 16 as planned.
Trump issued the order amid rising international concern about attacks carried out by Islamist militants like those in Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin and other cities.
But critics have called the order a mean-spirited, intolerant and un-American “Muslim ban.”
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.
They also argued that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on the government favouring or disfavoring any particular religion.
Regional federal appeals courts in Virginia and California both upheld district judge injunctions blocking the order.
Trump signed the order as a replacement for a Jan. 27 order issued a week after he became president that also was blocked by federal courts.
The revised order was intended to overcome the legal issues posed by the original ban, which also 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 Christians and other religious groups over Muslims.
Trump has called the March order a “watered down, politically correct” version of the January one.
But the order still embodied his “America First” nationalist message and reflected his views of the dangers posed to the United States by certain immigrants and visitors.
The administration has said the travel ban is needed to allow time to implement stronger vetting measures, although it has already rolled out some new requirements not blocked by courts, including additional questions for visa applicants.