The Trump administration has asked the US' highest court to reinstate his ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. The bill has been repeatedly blocked in the lower courts.
US President Donald Trump's administration filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court on Thursday in what is likely to be a final bid to push through an order banning travelers from six Muslim-majority countries.
The Justice Department filing to the US' highest court argued that a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, made several errors last week when it upheld a federal judge's decision to block the executive order.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Trump's executive order "is well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe."
"The president is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States," Sessions said.
Chaos across US airports
Within a week of assuming office, Trump signed the executive order banning travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as well as Iraq, for 90 days. The order took immediate effect, triggering panic, chaos and protests in airports across the US and the Middle East.
A week later the ban was blocked by several federal courts, leading the Trump administration to revise it. The updated ban removed Iraq from the list of affected countries and removed an indefinite ban on Syrian migrants. That order was also blocked before it could go into effect, first by a district court in Maryland and then, last week, by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
Appeals court unconvinced order about security, not religion
The court in Richmond said it "remained unconvinced" that the naming of specific countries had "more to do with national security than it does with effectuating the president's promised Muslim ban."
Effectively, the court concluded that challengers of the order would likely succeed on their claim that it unconstitutionally favored or disfavored a particular religion.
"We have asked the Supreme Court to hear this important case and are confident that President Trump's executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe and protect our communities from terrorism," Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
The White House also filed an application with the Supreme Court seeking to suspend the US' refugee program for 120 days, another aspect of the original policy was ultimately blocked by a federal judge in Hawaii.
Will the Supreme Court back Trump?
The ban needs the backing of at least of five of the nine presiding Supreme Court justices to become law.
The court has a 5-4 conservative majority, although conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy is generally seen as a swing voter, having sided with the court's liberals on several issues. Neil Gorsuch, also a conservative justice, was appointed by Trump this year.
All four judges perceived to be more left-leaning are expected to oppose the ban, meaning the decision could come down to just a single voice.
dm/msh (AP, AFP, dpa)