Trump travel ban's fate hinges on emergency USA high court request

The U.S.'s highest court now has five conservative and four liberal judges on its bench but its decisions are unlikely to be split along party lines in a complex case that involves debate around the powers of the executive branch and the freedom of religion.

The Administration is asking the court to let the ban go into effect while the arguments over its constitutionality proceed.

A key part of the order - a 90-day suspension of issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries - is now blocked by two different district courts, one in Maryland and the other in Hawaii.

His administration has argued that the travel ban is needed to prevent "terrorism" in the U.S., but the ACLU and several other groups, as well as law experts, scholars and activists say that Trump's statements on the campaign trail and statements from his advisers since he took office make clear that the intent of the policy is to ban Muslims.

The court could act on the emergency application within the next two weeks.

Immigration officials would have 90 days to decide what changes are necessary before people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen may resume applying for visas.

The U.S. Justice Department has not made clear when the administration would make its formal appeal or whether it would wait for the 9th Circuit Court's ruling before appealing. The administration also wants the Supreme Court to hear the underlying dispute possibly as soon as this fall and rule one way or another.

His legal team on Thursday night asked the nine justices to allow his controversial March 6 executive order to take effect immediately despite being blocked by lower courts.

Just last week, the 4th Circuit Appeals Court ruled the executive order is actually a pretext, cover for the ban on Muslims the president discussed during the campaign. "In that manner, if the petition can be considered before the Court adjourns, and if the Court grants review, merits briefing could be completed by the beginning of the next Term, thereby avoiding further delay in the final resolution of the exceptionally important issues presented".

Muslim groups have protested the order as discriminatory, while civil rights groups such as the the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that it violated the US Constitution's Establishment Clause.

The administration said that campaign statements are irrelevant because they were made before Trump took the oath of office, and the president's national security judgment is enough to bar second-guessing by the courts.

The Supreme Court filled a 14-month vacancy in April when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate. It says the move is justified by the need to keep the nation safe, and it says presidents have nearly unlimited discretion to make national-security judgments and to control immigration. If it is lifted, the travel ban could expire before the Supreme Court has a chance to issue a definitive ruling. Remember; lower courts have raised serious doubts about whether this travel ban is constitutional.

The temporary nature of the bans means they could well have run their course by the time the case is ready to be argued, unless the court were to schedule an unusual special argument session.

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