The Trump administration told a federal appeals court Wednesday that the president has broad authority to prevent people from any country from traveling to the U.S.
“This is precisely what President Carter found with respect to the Iranian hostage crisis and what President Reagan found with respect to a dispute with Cuba,” argued Hashim Mooppan, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department.
The case was heard in Seattle before judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
It involves a challenge by the state of Hawaii to the latest version of President Trump’s executive order restricting travel from several majority Muslim countries.
Former solicitor general Neal Katyal argued Hawaii's case.
He told the judges that the administration has failed to show why people from the eight countries covered in the ban posed a threat.
“They couldn’t do it,” Katyal said. “And the national security experts tell you one reason why, which is the individual vetting system is working.”
Mooppan disagreed, noted that the government had conducted a 90-day, multi-agency review, after which Trump determined that certain countries do not provide enough information to sufficiently vet their citizens' backgrounds.
During the hour-long hearing, Judge Ronald Gould posed a hypothetical question to DOJ attorney Mooppan:
“Let’s say the president sat down with his cabinet and they discussed things and decided the world’s a very dangerous place these days,” Gould said. “In fact, it’s so dangerous that the president decided he’s going to exclude entry from any person from any place in the world if they’re not American citizens.”
Gould asked Mooppan if that decision would be reviewable by the court.
“I don’t think so, your Honor,” Mooppan replied, noting however that Congress could give courts that authority.
Neal Katyal forcefully disagreed with Moopan’s interpretation of immigration law.
“The idea that the president can ban all immigration from around the world and this court would be powerless to review it, that certainly…is not the constitution of the United States.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to allow the restrictions to take effect pending legal challenges in the 9th and 4th Circuits. The 4th Circuit is scheduled to hear arguments Friday.
The same three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled against Trump's second travel ban. Following Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Gould said they’ll issue a decision on the current ban “as soon as practical,” as the Supreme Court has urged.
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