The U.S. Supreme Court has handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his latest travel ban targeting people from six predominantly Muslim countries to go into full effect, even as legal challenges continue in lower courts.
The court voted 6-to-2 to grant his administration's request to lift injunctions imposed by lower courts that had partially blocked the ban.
Attorneys said the ruling sends a signal that the high court may eventually approve the travel order despite lawsuits questioning its constitutionality.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley hailed the decision, while U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it "a substantial victory for the safety and security of the American people."
The ruling means that the visa ban will now go fully into effect for people from Iran, Chad, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen seeking to enter the United States, even if they have family members in the United States.
The ban was challenged in separate lawsuits by the U.S. state of Hawaii and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Both suits contend that it discriminates against Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuits contend that the travel ban carries out Trump's call for what he described as "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" during last year's campaign.
"President Trump's anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret. He has repeatedly confirmed it," ACLU lawyer Omar Jadwat said.
"It's unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims," Jadwat said. "We continue to stand for freedom, equality, and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones."
Lower courts had previously limited the scope of the ban to people who do not have either family connections in the United States or formal relationships with U.S. organizations, such as universities and resettlement agencies.
Now, those relationships will no longer ensure visitors can get a U.S. visa, although the ban still allows the U.S. State Department to make case-by-case exceptions.
Trump's visa ban also covers people from North Korea and Venezuela, but the lower courts had already allowed those provisions to go into effect.
The high court said that the lower court rulings that partly blocked Trump's ban should be put on hold while appeals courts in San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia, weigh the constitutional challenges that have been raised against it.
Both courts are due to hear arguments this week.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, both appointed by former President Barack Obama, dissented from the court's ruling.
With reporting by AP and Reuters