The Trump administration said in its emergency motion on Monday that the federal court ruling, which was supposed to take effect on Tuesday, would have allowed up to 24,000 additional refugees into the country.
Whether resettlement agencies qualified as an entity through which refugees could gain entry to the US became a major point of contention. Tuesday's order was the latest in a series of interim measures interpreting statements in a June ruling in which the court agreed to hear the case. That broader question, on the merits of the Trump order, is scheduled to be taken up by the Justices on October 10, after the court's new term had opened on October 2. In the meantime, the court temporarily reinstated the travel ban - but only for people without "a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States".
The U.S. Supreme Court stands in Washington, D.C., on May 18, 2015.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Seattle, agreed on both points.
In doing so, the court rejected the Trump administration's interpretation of the Supreme Court's June decision and rebuffed the administration's ongoing effort to ban individuals from six predominantly Muslim countries. "We will continue to vigorously defend the order leading up to next month's oral argument in the Supreme Court".
The Trump administration at first defined that close relationship as immediate relatives, including spouses and spouses-to-be, children and parents. The 120-day refugee ban will remain in effect until October 27, just 17 days after the hearing.
If the order was meant to be only a temporary move, that might be explained by the fact that the court is now in the final weeks of its summer recess, and all nine of the Justices might not have had the time to study closely what was at stake in the Administration's requests. The issue that is being debated is the elucidation of a bona fide tie to the United States.
The objection to Trump's travel ban most frequently cited by Watson and U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland (the other judge who issued a ruling last March blocking sections of Trump's executive order) was that the order amounted to a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
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