A U.S. appeals court will hear testimony on February 7 over whether to restore President Donald Trump's temporary ban on all refugees as well as travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco asked lawyers for the Justice Department and the states of Washington and Minnesota to present their arguments at 3 p.m. local time on whether to keep blocking the travel ban.
A Seattle court suspended Trump's immigration order on February 3, opening a window for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan -- the countries named in the ban -- to enter the United States.
Trump was confident on February 7 that the ban would be reinstated by the courts.
"We're going to take it through the system," he said. "It's very important, it's very important for the country regardless of me or whoever succeeds at a later date. We have to have security in our country."
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on February 7 in Washington that the United States is not considering adding other countries to the executive order.
He told lawmakers in a congressional committee that the travel ban is not a Muslim ban and "is a pause right now as we sort these issues out." Several Democratic Party members on the House of Representatives committee used the term "Muslim ban" in asking Kelly questions.
The retired general also admitted that he would have liked Trump officials to have delayed the announcement of the travel ban until he had a chance to alert congressional members about it.
Kelly added that the ban -- set to last for between three and four months -- would enhance safety "for all our citizens."
The lawsuit against the executive order has triggered an outpouring of opposition to the Trump order from more than a dozen U.S. states, former top diplomats, law enforcement officials, and global technology companies.
In a brief filed late on February 6, the Justice Department argued for limiting the court order blocking Trump's travel ban, saying it is too broad and should be narrowed to permit entry only for people who were already granted entry to the country and were temporarily abroad, or those who want to leave and return to the United States.
Trump insists his order is needed to protect the nation against terrorism, while opponents say it is unconstitutional in barring entry on the basis of religion.
Moreover, lawyers for Washington and Minnesota told the appeals court that reinstating Trump's temporary travel ban would "unleash chaos again" in the nation's airports, businesses, and families.
The Seattle judge's order received a furious response from Trump, who warned on February 5 that the courts could be placing Americans in "peril."
Speaking at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, on February 6, Trump defended the order.
"Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland as they did on 9/11," he said. "We need strong programs for people who love our country," Trump said, adding that "people who want to destroy us and destroy our country" should not be allowed in.
The White House, meanwhile, is confident that it will prevail, spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on February 6.
"Clearly the law is on the president's side," he said aboard Air Force One. "He has broad discretion to do what's in the nation's best interest to protect our people, and we feel very confident that we will prevail in this matter."
The filing by lawyers for Washington state included a declaration by former top U.S. officials -- including former U.S. Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright -- expressing their concerns about Trump’s order, which they called "ill-conceived, poorly implemented, and ill-explained."
They added that the order harms national security, saying "we risk placing our military efforts at risk by sending an insulting message" to Iraqis working with U.S. forces battling the extremist Islamic State (IS) group there.
"The order will likely feed the recruitment narrative of [IS] and other extremists that portray the United States as at war with Islam," they also said.
Lawyers for prominent U.S. technology companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft also lodged arguments with the appeals court in San Francisco, arguing that Trump’s order "inflicts significant harm on American business."
Late on February 4, the court turned down a Department of Justice request to reinstate the ban and instead asked the sides to file more arguments.
The court is expected to act quickly, and a decision either way may ultimately result in the case reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and The New York Times