A U.S. appeals court has refused to reinstate President Donald Trump's temporary ban on refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations, dealing a major setback to the new administration.
In a unanimous decision, the panel of three judges from the San Francisco court left in place a lower-court ruling suspending the ban and allowing previously barred travelers to enter the United States.
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely.
Trump quickly responded to the court's ruling on Twitter, saying, "See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake." Trump later dismissed the ruling as "political."
In response, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the Democratic leader of one of the U.S. states that challenged the ban in court, said: "Mr. President, we just saw you in court, and we beat you."
The appeals court judges said the U.S. government presented no evidence to explain the urgent need for Trump's executive order to take effect immediately, and they rejected the administration's argument that the courts have no authority to review his immigration policies.
The judges noted that U.S. states that oppose the ban have raised "serious allegations" about religious discrimination and presented "significant constitutional questions," while the Trump administration did not present any evidence that public safety was at risk.
Specifically, the judges said the administration has not provided any evidence that anyone from the seven countries named in the executive order -- Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria -- had committed a "terrorist attack" in the United States.
Moreover, the court said the states and other opponents of the order had presented evidence of "numerous statements" by the president "about his intent to implement a 'Muslim ban'," despite the White House's repeated denials that the order was targeted on those who practice Islam.
"On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies," the ruling said. "And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination."
Two of the three appeals court judges were appointees of former Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, and one was appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush.
The Trump administration has 14 days to appeal the ruling.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters