SEATTLE/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday wrestled with a bid by President Donald Trump to show that his latest travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries is legal.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hearing in Seattle came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Trump’s travel ban to take effect while litigation over its ultimate validity unfolds.
The ban targets people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seeking to enter the United States. The Republican president has said the travel ban is needed to protect the United States from terrorism.
The state of Hawaii, however, challenged it in court, and a Honolulu federal judge said it exceeded Trump’s powers under immigration law.
Trump’s ban also covers people from North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela, but the lower courts had already allowed those provisions to go into effect.
The same three judge 9th Circuit panel which limited a previous version of Trump’s ban heard arguments on Wednesday. Some of the judges appeared more cautious toward the idea of blocking the president’s policy.
Judge Michael Daly Hawkins asked Hawaii’s lawyers whether Trump’s latest proclamation is more sound than prior versions. The current one, he said, is based on specific findings that some foreign governments do not share enough information to properly vet immigrants.
“You would trust Kim Jong Un to say this person is this person, you gotta let him in?” Hawkins said.
Judge Ronald Gould said the court would issue a ruling “as soon as practicable.”
Trump issued his first travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries in January, which caused chaos at airports and mass protests.
He issued a revised one in March after the first was blocked by federal courts.
That expired in September after a long court fight, and was replaced with the current version.
The ban has some exceptions. Certain people from each targeted country can still apply for a visa for tourism, business or education purposes, and any applicant can ask for an individual waiver.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear a separate challenge to the ban on Friday, and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to ultimately decide the issue in the coming months.
Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Richard Chang