A US court will rule Thursday on whether to reinstate President Donald Trump’s executive order closing US borders to refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, in a major legal test of his controversial law-and-order agenda.
The ruling from the federal appeals court in San Francisco on the contentious ban, which was issued on January 27 with no prior warning and suspended a week later, comes just three weeks into Trump’s presidency.
The order sparked travel chaos and was met with condemnation by immigration advocacy groups.
But the Republican leader has blasted its suspension, labelling the Seattle federal judge who issued it as a “so-called judge” and branding the courts “disgraceful” and politicized.
A spokesman for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the ruling would come before the end of the day.
Trump’s decree summarily denied entry to all refugees for 120 days, and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely.
Trump and other top administration officials have argued it is needed to keep out Islamic State and Al-Qaeda fighters migrating from Middle East hotspots, insisting time is needed to implement stricter vetting procedures.
In a hearing Tuesday, the judges appeared skeptical of the White House’s defense of the sweeping order, which critics say was aimed at Muslims in violation of US law.
Echoing Trump, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — who is in charge of enforcing the immigration ban — has said the courts do not understand the threat the country faces.
“In their world it is very academic, almost in a vacuum. In their courtrooms, they are protected by people like me,” Kelly told lawmakers.
– ‘New era’ of justice –
Earlier in the day, Trump defended his hardline policies, which have run up against legal checks and balances, as he declared a “new era of justice” in America and swore in his attorney general Jeff Sessions in the Oval Office.
The property mogul-turned-president also signed three executive orders designed to burnish his law-and-order credentials.
“We face the menace of rising crime and the threat of deadly terror,” said the Republican leader, doubling down on his dystopian vision of America.
“A new era of justice begins and it begins right now,” he said.
The rate of violent crime in America’s 30 largest cities rose slightly last year, but remains near historic lows, according to the Brennan Center, an independent think tank.
Trump’s tough talk belies a political and legislative agenda that has been beset by missteps and legal challenges.
The blowback from Trump’s outbursts over the travel ban suspension showed no signs of abating, after his own Supreme Court nominee described the president’s comments as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Opposition Democrats echoed those criticisms, but also suggested the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was trying to smooth his nomination by appearing as an independent voice.
– Popular support –
Trump has been able to demonstrate a steady level of support from Republicans in Congress, who have almost unanimously backed his key administration appointments.
Late Wednesday, the Senate voted 52-47 to approve Sessions, after Democrats stalled for weeks on a nominee whose civil rights record has come under intense scrutiny.
While being sworn in, Sessions echoed Trump’s view of the urgency of tackling violent crime.
“We have a crime problem. I wish the rise that we’re seeing in crime in America today was some sort of aberration or blip” but, Sessions said, it is a “dangerous permanent trend.”
Trump signed an order creating a task force on violent crime and another to tackle crime directed at law enforcement officials.
Those measures drew criticism from across the ideological spectrum.
“President Trump intends to build task forces to investigate and stop national trends that don’t exist.” said Jeffery Robinson of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The third presidential order tasks officials with looking at how the United States tackles organized crime syndicates.
Trump’s message may be criticized by experts, but it appears to be resonating with supporters.
Trump won the election last November with 46 percent of the popular vote, and the RealClearPolitics average of polls shows his job approval at about that level, with the split largely along Republican-Democratic lines.
Trump on Wednesday trumpeted a Morning Consult-Politico poll showing 55 percent voter approval for his immigration ban, with 38 percent disapproving.
Previous studies — which the president dismissed as “fake news” — had shown a majority of Americans opposing the measure.
Trump also cited the poll published Tuesday by London’s Chatham House think tank showing 55 percent support across 10 European countries for a freeze on immigration from Muslim countries.