A U.S. federal appeals court in San Francisco has denied an emergency motion filed by the Justice Department to immediately reinstate President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily barring citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, as well as all refugees, from entering the United States.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco instead asked the state of Washington and the Trump administration early on February 5 to file more arguments by the afternoon on February 6.
U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, ruled late on February 3 that the executive order could not be enforced until the case against it brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota was decided.
In its filing late on February 4, the Justice Department said the judge's order "second-guesses the president's national-security judgment" and harmed the public by "thwarting enforcement" of the executive order.
Acting Solicitor-General Noel Francisco argued on February 4 that the president alone had the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States.
"The power to expel or exclude aliens is a fundamental sovereign attribute, delegated by Congress to the executive branch of government and largely immune from judicial control," the brief says.
Trump also lashed out at Judge Robart, labeling him a "so-called judge" on Twitter and dismissing his "opinion" as "ridiculous."
"Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision," Trump tweeted.
The restraining order is valid nationwide, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service has informed airlines to board passengers bound for the United States who hold valid visas. Visas that were physically canceled while the executive order was being enforced remain invalid.
Trump justified his January 27 order on national-security grounds, but opponents say it unconstitutionally targets people on the basis of their religion.
The executive order bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen -- from entering the United States for a 90-day period, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, and indefinitely stops the processing of refugees from Syria.
The higher court's denial comes just hours after the Justice Department filed for an emergency stay of the suspension of Trump's travel ban and means legal battles over the ban will most likely continue over the next several days.
With reporting by AP and AFP