Donald Trump has secured a considerable legal and political victory, after the Supreme Court ruled that it will allow a limited version of his Muslim travel ban to take effect.
A series of lower courts had ruled his executive order, banning the entry of people from six Muslim-majority nations and suspending America’s refugee programme, was unconstitutional.
However, the Supreme Court said it would hear arguments from Mr Trump’s lawyers when justices return for their next term in October. It said that in the meantime, it would grant parts of his administration’s emergency request to put the March 6 executive order into effect immediately while what is likely to be a lengthy legal battle continues.
“We grant the government’s applications to stay the injunctions, to the extent the injunctions prevent enforcement of [Mr Trump’s executive order] with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” the court said.
Mr Trump was quick to celebrate, and said the court’s unanimous decision was a “a clear victory for our national security”.
“It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective,” he said in a statement.
“As President, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm. I want people who can love the United States and all of its citizens, and who will be hardworking and productive.”
Reuters reported that the travel ban will take effect “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”. The court also said it would allow a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States to go into operation on the same grounds.
Three of the court’s conservative justices said they would have granted Mr Trump’s request in full, including his appointee Neil Gorsuch.
The court did leave one category of foreigners protected, namely those “with a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”.
Those who have been working to stop the order, said they hoped the highest court ultimately agreed with those lower rulings that had said the action was unconstitutional.
“We hope that the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold the ruling of Judges across the country and declare the travel ban unconstitutional and discriminatory in nature,” said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project.
“When the first order went into effect, tens of thousands of Americans showed the world that this is not who we are and not what we want. We will never give up defending the rights of those who are affected by this discriminatory executive order.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, claimed the decision “ignores the Islamophobic origins of the policy” and emboldened Islamophobes in the Trump administration.
“It also ignores the almost-unanimous rejection of the Muslim ban by lower courts due to its religious intolerance and racial animus,” said Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director.
Mr Trump said last week that the ban – which applies to citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts. It is unclear whether the move will result in the same chaotic scenes at airports in the US and around the world as were seen when the order first came into effect earlier this year.
Mr Trump first signed an executive order on this issue in January. In addition to the scenes of chaos at airports, the signing of the order also triggered widespread protests from those opposed to Mr Trump’s actions. Several courts said the ban was unconstitutional and put it on hold.
The President then signed a second order in early March that excluded Iraq from the list of countries.