SAN FRANCISCO – The state of Texas on Wednesday defended President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations as an assertion of presidential authority intended to protect the country from terrorists, splitting with states that have denounced the order as a religious attack.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed documents asking the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision not to immediately reinstate the ban.
“Every state has a substantial interest in the health and welfare of their citizens, but the states must rely on the federal executive to determine when the entry of aliens should be suspended for public-safety reasons,” Paxton wrote.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit last week refused to block a lower-court decision that suspended the ban. The judges rejected the Trump administration’s claim of presidential authority and questioned its motives.
The decision came in a lawsuit brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota, which said the ban unconstitutionally blocked entry on the basis of religion and harmed their residents, universities and sales tax revenue. Eighteen other states, including California and New York, supported the challenge.
The appeals court will decide whether to have a larger panel of judges reconsider the decision. It has asked the Trump administration and Washington and Minnesota to file arguments by Thursday on whether more judges should hear the case.
The three-judge panel said the states had raised “serious” allegations that the ban targets Muslims, and the courts could consider statements Trump has made about shutting down Muslim immigration.
The judges also rejected the federal government’s argument that courts do not have the authority to review the president’s immigration and national security decisions.
They said the Trump administration presented no evidence that any foreigner from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — was responsible for a terrorist attack in the U.S.
Texas argued Wednesday that the panel failed to consider the president’s authority to suspend immigration — power that Congress has delegated to the office — and wrongly extended constitutional rights to foreigners.
Trump’s executive order targeted specific nationalities, not a religion, and the states could not support their legal challenge with the president’s campaign statements, Texas said.
Republicans in Texas also have supported some of Trump’s other plans to crack down on immigration, including a threat to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary cities.”
The GOP-controlled Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would cut off state-controlled grants to local jurisdictions that don’t co-operate with federal immigration authorities.