A federal appeals court ruled Thursday to keep in place a temporary restraining order barring the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order banning entry into the U.S. for nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which came in a lawsuit filed by the states of Washington and Minnesota, is a defeat for the Trump administration, which is expected to appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel specifically said that Washington State and Minnesota had legal standing to challenge the travel ban in part because of the impact on students and faculty members at public universities. The decision said that the states "allege that the teaching and research missions of their universities are harmed by the executive order's effect on their faculty and students who are nationals of the seven affected countries. These students and faculty cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or for personal reasons, and their families abroad cannot visit. Some have been stranded outside the country, unable to return to the universities at all. The schools cannot consider attractive student candidates and cannot hire faculty from the seven affected countries, which they have done in the past."
The court specifically cited concerns raised by the University of Washington and Washington State University. "According to declarations filed by the states, for example, two visiting scholars who had planned to spend time at Washington State University were not permitted to enter the United States; one was informed he would be unable to obtain a visa. Similarly, the University of Washington was in the process of sponsoring three prospective employees from countries covered by the executive order for visas; it had made plans for their arrival beginning in February 2017, but they have been unable to enter the United States. The University of Washington also sponsored two medicine and science interns who have been prevented by the executive order from coming to the University of Washington. The University of Washington has already incurred the costs of visa applications for those interns and will lose its investment if they are not admitted. Both schools have a mission of 'global engagement' and rely on such visiting students, scholars and faculty to advance their educational goals."
"The interests of the states’ universities here are aligned with their students," the decision said. "The students’ educational success is 'inextricably bound up' in the universities’ capacity to teach them. And the universities’ reputations depend on the success of their professors’ research. Thus, as the operators of state universities, the states may assert not only their own rights to the extent affected by the executive order but may also assert the rights of their students and faculty members."
The executive order, signed by President Trump Jan. 27, temporarily barred entry to the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and also suspended all refugee admissions. Under the terms of the temporary restraining order, which the appeals court left in place, the government has suspended all enforcement actions related to the ban, and travel by individuals from the affected countries into the U.S. has, for now, resumed.
In denying the Trump administration's request to overturn the restraining order, the court found that the federal government had not shown it was likely to prevail on appeal in regards to the states' claim that the ban violates due process rights of individuals from the affected countries. And while reserving judgment on the states' claims that the ban violates the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution "because it was intended to disfavor Muslims," the court nevertheless noted the "serious nature of the allegations the states have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims."
The court also noted that the Trump administration, which cited the need to bar the entry of terrorists as the reason for the order, "has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree."
Many higher education groups and leaders spoke out against the entry ban, which among other things threatened to disrupt international student admissions by halting all visa processing from the seven countries for at least 90 days. Many in higher education see the ban as contradictory to core values of higher education like inclusiveness and internationalism.
At the University of Washington, the ruling was seen as something to celebrate.
Trump, who has justified the order as necessary to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S., had a different reaction.