Politics

What the latest court ruling on President Trump's travel ban means

FILE: Protesters outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, when President Trump's initial travel ban barred people from certain Muslim-majority countries.
FILE: Protesters outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, when President Trump's initial travel ban barred people from certain Muslim-majority countries.
Brian Frank/KPCC

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A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that President Trump’s most recent travel ban announced in September can take partial effect for now.

Here is what the ruling means:

Q: What did the court decide?

The appeals judges ruled that the federal government may restrict entry into the country or deny admission to people from six majority-Muslim countries named in the travel ban – but only if they lack ties to close family in the United States, or to a U.S. entity like an employer or a university.

The court order reads that travelers from the six countries who have a credible claim to a close relation in the United States should be allowed in. The relatives can include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

The relationship to an employer, university or other entity must be formal, documented, and not formed for the purpose of evading restrictions

Q: Who is affected?

The order affects immigrants and travelers from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Libya, and Somalia. Trump's proclamation in September restricted or barred people from these countries, along with North Koreans and certain Venezuelan government officials.

Court challenges to the travel ban included just the six mostly Muslim countries, however, as they alleged that the rules discriminated against Muslims.

Also, very few North Koreans make it to the U.S. given that country's strict exit policies, and the rules involving Venezuelans applied to only a very narrow category of individuals.

Q: What led up to the latest court decision?

Trump's September proclamation was the third in a series of travel bans. The Trump administration said restricting travel is needed for security reasons and to keep terrorists from entering the country.

The first travel ban was a executive order issued in January. Its implementation prompted chaos in the nation's airports as travelers were detained and in some cases sent back to their countries of origin.

After the lower courts blocked the travel ban, it was modified and reintroduced in March. The March travel ban attempted to bar the entry of people from six majority-Muslim countries: Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan.

The second ban was also initially blocked in court, but in June the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to be partly implemented, and also exempting people who had a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship" with a close U.S. relative or entity. 

The temporary travel ban expired and was replaced with Trump's September proclamation, which sought to suspend immigrant entries for most of the eight countries listed. There were different restrictions imposed, depending on each country. For example, while non-immigrant visitors from most of the listed countries were barred, student and exchange visitor visas from Iran were not. 

Federal Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii blocked implementation of the new travel ban in October, stating in his order that it "plainly discriminates based on nationality." A Maryland judge issued a similar order shortly afterward.

Monday's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals order partly stays the Hawaii court decision. 

Q: What happens now? Will attorneys be heading to the airports again?

Both the Hawaii case and the Maryland case are set to be argued in court in early December. 

Legal challenges and appeals from both sides will likely continue.

"We believe that the proclamation should be allowed to take effect in its entirety," a spokeswoman from the Department of Justice told reporters.

Several volunteer attorneys were on hand at LAX in June to assist travelers when the second travel ban was partly implemented. That rollout went much more smoothly than the initial ban in January.

An attorney who helped coordinate that effort told KPCC on Tuesday there are no immediate plans to deploy attorneys to LAX this time.