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US appeals court won't reinstate Trump's immigration travel ban

The ruling is seen as a win for the tech industry, which has vowed to fight the ban.

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A federal appeals court refused on Thursday to restore President Donald Trump's ban on travelers to the US from seven mostly Muslim countries, a ruling certain to hearten the technology industry.

A three-judge panel from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to block a lower-court ruling that suspended the ban, which was called for by an executive order almost two weeks ago. The order created confusion in the country's airports and was challenged by the states of Washington and Minnesota.

The tech industry came out in full force against the ban, filing a brief signed by many of Silicon Valley's biggest companies, supporting a challenge to the president's order. The tech industry's objection to the ban marked a turning point in the industry's detente with Trump, who before he was sworn in invited 13 tech execs to meet with him at Trump Tower in New York to discuss topics ranging from investment to immigration policy.

Trump wasted no time in lashing out at the judges, initially suggesting an appeal to the Supreme Court was imminent.

On Friday, Trump said he may sign a brand-new travel ban as early as next week, instead of waiting for the courts.

"We will be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country," he told reporters. "You'll be seeing that sometime next week."

Trump signed the executive order Jan. 27, suspending travel by individuals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Immigration officials across the country detained for several hours many travelers with valid visas.

Last Saturday, a US district judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order stopping the 90-day ban after Washington and Minnesota sued. Tech companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter supported those suits, saying the ban would cause "substantial harm on US companies," as well as affect their global recruiting and disrupt their businesses.

The Justice Department quickly appealed, filing a brief with the 9th Circuit, arguing the president alone has the right to determine who should or shouldn't be allowed to enter the country.

On Tuesday, the judges heard arguments by phone on whether the lower court's restraining order blocking the ban should be lifted. Those arguments aired live on TV, the internet and across social media.

The judges acknowledged the competing needs highlighted by the executive order.

"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 judges said in their decision. "On the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.

They concluded that "these competing public interests do not justify a stay."

Tech executives including Aaron Levie, CEO of enterprise storage company Box, shared their enthusiasm for the ruling.

Thursday's decision gave hints that Trump's many statements and tweets about Muslim immigration could come back to haunt him as the case goes forward.

Though the executive order never explicitly says its aim is to keep Muslims from entering the United States, Trump has made many public remarks about Muslim immigration, including a statement in December 2015 while he was still a candidate in the Republican primary election.

That's when he said, "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." He repeated that statement verbatim to a cheering crowd later that evening.

Trump has also tweeted about the issue as recently as Monday, when he remarked, "The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle-East. Courts must act fast!"

The court didn't rule Thursday on the issue of whether the immigration order could be seen as a ban on Muslim immigration based on Trump's statements and tweets.

Instead, the appeals judges teed up the issue for further review, saying it's "well established" that evidence outside the text of a law can be considered in cases that consider these "significant constitutional questions."

First published Feb. 9, 3:55 p.m. PT.
Update, Feb. 10 at 4:49 p.m.:
Adds comments from President Trump on possibly creating a new travel ban.

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