WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court said Monday that the government could fully enforce a revised ban on travellers from six mainly Muslim countries pending appeal, backing President Donald Trump in the year-long battle over the controversial measure.
The court stayed October rulings from two lower courts that had blocked implementation of the open-ended ban on visitors from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen while legal challenges to it continued.
The third version of Trump's travel ban, unveiled in September, drew immediate challenges in federal appeals courts in Richmond, Virginia and San Francisco, California.
Plaintiffs argued that the measure targets Muslims in violation of the US Constitution and did not advance security goals as the government claimed.
The challengers convinced the lower courts to put implementation on hold while they and government lawyers fight out the case.
But the Trump administration, which says the ban is crucial to protect US national security and deter terror attacks, secured strong support from the Supreme Court in a 7-2 vote by justices to let the government move ahead while the appeals continue.
The justices said they expect the lower appeals courts to expedite their decisions, leaving open the possibility that the policy itself could return to the Supreme Court in yet another legal challenge to the White House.
The Richmond court is expected to hear the case on Friday.
The ban also covers people from North Korea and a selection of high officials from Venezuela, but its main focus is travellers from the six countries.