Here is a slimmed-down version of today’s excellent opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refusing to remove the nationwide injunction temporarily stopping Trump’s Executive Order on immigration. That order bars people from seven predominately Muslim countries on the basis of their nationality and religion. I explained in an op-ed yesterday why I think the order is unconstitutional. You can read the full Ninth Circuit opinion here; the version below includes most of the opinion but strips out most of the procedural discussions, including the discussions of whether the States of Washington and Minnesota had standing to sue.
At issue in this emergency proceeding is Executive Order 1379, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which, among other changes to immigration policies and procedures, bans for 90 days the entry into the United States of individuals from seven countries. Two States challenged the Executive Order as unconstitutional and violative of federal law, and a federal district court preliminarily ruled in their favor and temporarily enjoined enforcement of the Executive Order. The Government now moves for an emergency stay of the district court’s temporary restraining order while its appeal of that order proceeds.
To rule on the Government’s motion, we must consider several factors, including whether the Government has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal, the degree of hardship caused by a stay or its denial, and the public interest in granting or denying a stay. We assess those factors in light of the limited evidence put forward by both parties at this very preliminary stage and are mindful that our analysis of the hardships and public interest in this case involves particularly sensitive and weighty concerns on both sides. Nevertheless, we hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.
On January 27, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” (the “Executive Order”). 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977. Citing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and stating that “numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism related crimes” since then, the Executive Order declares that “the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.” id. It asserts, “Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.” id.
The Executive Order makes several changes to the policies and procedures by which non-citizens may enter the United States. Three are at issue here. First, section 3© of the Executive Order suspends for 90 days the entry of aliens from seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977-78 (citing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 217(a)(12), codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1187(a)(12)). Second, section 5(a) of the Executive Order suspends for 120 days the United States Refugee Admissions Program. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,979. Upon resumption of the refugee program, section 5(b) of the Executive Order directs the Secretary of State to prioritize refugee claims based on religious persecution where a refugee’s religion is the minority religion in the country of his or her nationality. id. Third, section 5© of the Executive Order suspends indefinitely the entry of all Syrian refugees. id. Sections 3(g) and 5(e) of the Executive Order allow the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to make case-by-case exceptions to these provisions “when in the national interest.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8,978-80. Section 5(e) states that situations that would be in the national interest include “when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8,979. The Executive Order requires the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence to evaluate the United States’ visa, admission, and refugee programs during the periods in which entry is suspended. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977-80.
The impact of the Executive Order was immediate and widespread. It was reported that thousands of visas were immediately canceled, hundreds of travelers with such visas were prevented from boarding airplanes bound for the United States or denied entry on arrival, and some travelers were detained. Three days later, on January 30, 2017, the State of Washington filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, challenging sections 3©, 5(a)-©, and 5(e) of the Executive Order, naming as defendants the President, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the United States (collectively, “the Government”). Washington alleged that the Executive Order unconstitutionally and illegally stranded its residents abroad, split their families, restricted their travel, and damaged the State’s economy and public universities in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, the INA, the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Washington also alleged that the Executive Order was not truly meant to protect against terror attacks by foreign nationals but rather was intended to enact a “Muslim ban” as the President had stated during his presidential campaign that he would do.
Washington asked the district court to declare that the challenged sections of the Executive Order are illegal and unconstitutional and to enjoin their enforcement nationwide.
… The district court preliminarily concluded that significant and ongoing harm was being inflicted on substantial numbers of people, to the detriment of the States, by means of an Executive Order that the States were likely to be able to prove was unlawful. id. at 2. The district court enjoined and restrained the nationwide enforcement of sections 3© and 5(a)-© in their entirety. id. It enjoined section 5(e) to the extent that section “purports to prioritize refugee claims of certain religious minorities,” and prohibited the government from “proceeding with any action that prioritizes the refugee claims of certain religious minorities.” …
** REVIEWABILITY OF THE EXECUTIVE ORDER**
The Government contends that the district court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of the Executive Order because the President has “unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens.” The Government does not merely argue that courts owe substantial deference to the immigration and national security policy determinations of the political branches—an uncontroversial principle that is well-grounded in our jurisprudence. See, e.g., Cardenas v. United States, 826 F.3d 1164, 1169 (9th Cir. 2016) (recognizing that “the power to expel or exclude aliens [is] a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control” (quoting Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787, 792 (1977))); see also Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 33-34 (2010) (explaining that courts should defer to the political branches with respect to national security and foreign relations). Instead, the Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections. The Government indeed asserts that it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.
There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy. See Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 765 (2008) (rejecting the idea that, even by congressional statute, Congress and the Executive could eliminate federal court habeas jurisdiction over enemy combatants, because the “political branches” lack “the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will”). Within our system, it is the role of the judiciary to interpret the law, a duty that will sometimes require the “[r]esolution of litigation challenging the constitutional authority of one of the three branches.” Zivotofsky ex rel. Zivotofsky v. Clinton, 566 U.S. 189, 196 (2012) (quoting INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 943 (1983)). We are called upon to perform that duty in this case.
Although our jurisprudence has long counseled deference to the political branches on matters of immigration and national security, neither the Supreme Court nor our court has ever held that courts lack the authority to review executive action in those arenas for compliance with the Constitution. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political branches have unreviewable authority over immigration or are not subject to the Constitution when policymaking in that context. See Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 695 (2001) (emphasizing that the power of the political branches over immigration “is subject to important constitutional limitations”); Chadha, 462 U.S. at 940-41 (rejecting the argument that Congress has “unreviewable authority over the regulation of aliens,” and affirming that courts can review “whether Congress has chosen a constitutionally permissible means of implementing that power”). Our court has likewise made clear that “[a]lthough alienage classifications are closely connected to matters of foreign policy and national security,” courts “can and do review foreign policy arguments that are offered to justify legislative or executive action when constitutional rights are at stake.” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Reno, 70 F.3d 1045, 1056 (9th Cir. 1995).
Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972), does not compel a different conclusion. The Government cites Mandel for the proposition that “‘when the Executive exercises’ immigration authority ‘on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will [not] look behind the exercise of that discretion.’” The Government omits portions of the quoted language to imply that this standard governs judicial review of all executive exercises of immigration authority. In fact, the Mandel standard applies to lawsuits challenging an executive branch official’s decision to issue or deny an individual visa based on the application of a congressionally enumerated standard to the particular facts presented by that visa application. The present case, by contrast, is not about the application of a specifically enumerated congressional policy to the particular facts presented in an individual visa application. Rather, the States are challenging the President’s promulgation of sweeping immigration policy. Such exercises of policymaking authority at the highest levels of the political branches are plainly not subject to the Mandel standard; as cases like Zadvydas and Chadha make clear, courts can and do review constitutional challenges to the substance and implementation of immigration policy. See Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 695; Chadha, 462 U.S. at 940-41.
This is no less true when the challenged immigration action implicates national security concerns. See Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 19 (1942) (stating that courts have a duty, “in time of war as well as in time of peace, to preserve unimpaired the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty”); Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2, 120-21 (1866) (“The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace … under all circumstances.”). We are mindful that deference to the political branches is particularly appropriate with respect to national security and foreign affairs, given the relative institutional capacity, informational access, and expertise of the courts. See Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. at 33-34.
Nonetheless, “courts are not powerless to review the political branches’ actions” with respect to matters of national security. Alperin v. Vatican Bank, 410 F.3d 532, 559 n.17 (9th Cir. 2005). To the contrary, while counseling deference to the national security determinations of the political branches, the Supreme Court has made clear that the Government’s “authority and expertise in [such] matters do not automatically trump the Court’s own obligation to secure the protection that the Constitution grants to individuals,” even in times of war. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. at 34 (quoting id. at 61 (Breyer, J., dissenting)); see also United States v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258, 264 (1967) (“‘[N]ational defense’ cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal… . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties … which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”); Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1, 17 (1965) (“[S]imply because a statute deals with foreign relations [does not mean that] it can grant the Executive totally unrestricted freedom of choice.”).
Indeed, federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of—and even invalidate—actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict. See, e.g., Boumediene, 553 U.S. 723 (striking down a federal statute purporting to deprive federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by non-citizens being held as “enemy combatants” after being captured in Afghanistan or elsewhere and accused of authorizing, planning, committing, or aiding the terrorist attacks perpetrated on September 11, 2001); Aptheker v. Sec’y of State, 378 U.S. 500 (1964) (holding unconstitutional a statute denying passports to American members of the Communist Party despite national security concerns); Ex parte Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944) (holding unconstitutional the detention of a law-abiding and loyal American of Japanese ancestry during World War II and affirming federal court jurisdiction over habeas petitions by such individuals). As a plurality of the Supreme Court cautioned in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), “Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with other nations or with enemy organizations in times of conflict, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.” id. at 536 (plurality opinion).
In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.
… We are tasked here with deciding only whether the Government has made a strong showing of its likely success in this appeal and whether the district court’s TRO should be stayed in light of the relative hardships and the public interest. The Government has not shown that it is likely to succeed on appeal on its arguments about, at least, the States’ Due Process Clause claim, and we also note the serious nature of the allegations the States have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims. We express no view as to any of the States’ other claims.
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS—DUE PROCESS
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the Government from depriving individuals of their “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. V. The Government may not deprive a person of one of these protected interests without providing “notice and an opportunity to respond,” or, in other words, the opportunity to present reasons not to proceed with the deprivation and have them considered. United States v. Raya-Vaca, 771 F.3d 1195, 1204 (9th Cir. 2014); accord Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 542 (1985); ASSE Int’l, Inc. v. Kerry, 803 F.3d 1059, 1073 (9th Cir. 2015).
The Government has not shown that the Executive Order provides what due process requires, such as notice and a hearing prior to restricting an individual’s ability to travel. Indeed, the Government does not contend that the Executive Order provides for such process. Rather, in addition to the arguments addressed in other parts of this opinion, the Government argues that most or all of the individuals affected by the Executive Order have no rights under the Due Process Clause. In the district court, the States argued that the Executive Order violates the procedural due process rights of various aliens in at least three independent ways. First, section 3© denies re-entry to certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders without constitutionally sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond. Second, section 3© prohibits certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders from exercising their separate and independent constitutionally protected liberty interests in travelling abroad and thereafter re-entering the United States. Third, section 5 contravenes the procedures provided by federal statute for refugees seeking asylum and related relief in the United States. The district court held generally in the TRO that the States were likely to prevail on the merits of their due process claims, without discussing or offering analysis as to any specific alleged violation. At this stage of the proceedings, it is the Government’s burden to make “a strong showing that [it] is likely to” prevail against the States’ procedural due process claims. Lair v. Bullock, 697 F.3d 1200, 1203 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 426 (2009)). We are not persuaded that the Government has carried its burden for a stay pending appeal.
The procedural protections provided by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause are not limited to citizens. Rather, they “appl[y] to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens,” regardless of “whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 693 (2001). These rights also apply to certain aliens attempting to reenter the United States after travelling abroad. Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 33-34 (1982). The Government has provided no affirmative argument showing that the States’ procedural due process claims fail as to these categories of aliens. For example, the Government has failed to establish that lawful permanent residents have no due process rights when seeking to re-enter the United States. See id. (“[T]he returning resident alien is entitled as a matter of due process to a hearing on the charges underlying any attempt to exclude him.” (quoting Rosenberg v. Fleuti, 374 U.S. 449, 460 (1963))). Nor has the Government established that the Executive Order provides lawful permanent residents with constitutionally sufficient process to challenge their denial of re-entry. See id. at 35 (“[T]he courts must evaluate the particular circumstances and determine what procedures would satisfy the minimum requirements of due process on the re-entry of a permanent resident alien.”).
The Government has argued that, even if lawful permanent residents have due process rights, the States’ challenge to section 3© based on its application to lawful permanent residents is moot because several days after the Executive Order was issued, White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II issued “[a]uthoritative [g]uidance” stating that sections 3© and 3(e) of the Executive Order do not apply to lawful permanent residents. At this point, however, we cannot rely upon the Government’s contention that the Executive Order no longer applies to lawful permanent residents. The Government has offered no authority establishing that the White House counsel is empowered to issue an amended order superseding the Executive Order signed by the President and now challenged by the States, and that proposition seems unlikely.
… Even if the claims based on the due process rights of lawful permanent residents were no longer part of this case, the States would continue to have potential claims regarding possible due process rights of other persons who are in the United States, even if unlawfully, see Zadvydas, 533 U.S. 693; non-immigrant visaholders who have been in the United States but temporarily departed or wish to temporarily depart, see Landon, 459 U.S. 33-34; refugees, see 8 U.S.C. § 1231 note 8; and applicants who have a relationship with a U.S. resident or an institution that might have rights of its own to assert, see Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128, 2139 (2015) (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment); id. at 2142 (Breyer, J., dissenting); Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753, 762-65 (1972). Accordingly, the Government has not demonstrated that the States lack viable claims based on the due process rights of persons who will suffer injuries to protected interests due to the Executive Order. Indeed, the existence of such persons is obvious. …
[W]e decline to limit the scope of the TRO to lawful permanent residents and the additional category more recently suggested by the Government, in its reply memorandum, “previously admitted aliens who are temporarily abroad now or who wish to travel and return to the United States in the future.” That limitation on its face omits aliens who are in the United States unlawfully, and those individuals have due process rights as well. Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 693. That would also omit claims by citizens who have an interest in specific non-citizens’ ability to travel to the United States. See Din, 135 S. Ct. at 2139 (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment); id. at 2142 (Breyer, J., dissenting) (six Justices declining to adopt a rule that would categorically bar U.S. citizens from asserting cognizable liberty interests in the receipt of visas by alien spouses). There might be persons covered by the TRO who do not have viable due process claims, but the Government’s proposed revision leaves out at least some who do. …
More generally, even if the TRO might be overbroad in some respects, it is not our role to try, in effect, to rewrite the Executive Order. See United States v. Nat’l Treasury Emps. Union, 513 U.S. 454, 479 (1995) (declining to rewrite a statute to eliminate constitutional defects); cf. Aptheker v. Sec’y of State, 378 U.S. 500, 516 (1964) (invalidating a restriction on freedom of travel despite the existence of constitutional applications). The political branches are far better equipped to make appropriate distinctions. For now, it is enough for us to conclude that the Government has failed to establish that it will likely succeed on its due process argument in this appeal.
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS—RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION
The First Amendment prohibits any “law respecting an establishment of religion.” U.S. Const. amend. I. A law that has a religious, not secular, purpose violates that clause, Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13 (1971), as does one that “officially prefer[s] [one religious denomination] over another,” Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 (1982). The Supreme Court has explained that this is because endorsement of a religion “sends the ancillary message to … nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.’” Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 310 (2000) (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring)). The Equal Protection Clause likewise prohibits the Government from impermissibly discriminating among persons based on religion. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 50 (9th Cir. 1978).
The States argue that the Executive Order violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses because it was intended to disfavor Muslims. In support of this argument, the States have offered evidence of numerous statements by the President about his intent to implement a “Muslim ban” as well as evidence they claim suggests that the Executive Order was intended to be that ban, including sections 5(b) and 5(e) of the Order. It is well established that evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law may be considered in evaluating Establishment and Equal Protection Clause claims. See, e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 534 (1993) (“The Free Exercise Clause, like the Establishment Clause, extends beyond facial discrimination… . Official action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.”); Larson, 456 U.S. at 254-55 (holding that a facially neutral statute violated the Establishment Clause in light of legislative history demonstrating an intent to apply regulations only to minority religions); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266-268 (1977) (explaining that circumstantial evidence of intent, including the historical background of the decision and statements by decisionmakers, may be considered in evaluating whether a governmental action was motivated by a discriminatory purpose).
The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions. In light of the sensitive interests involved, the pace of the current emergency proceedings, and our conclusion that the Government has not met its burden of showing likelihood of success on appeal on its arguments with respect to the due process claim, we reserve consideration of these claims until the merits of this appeal have been fully briefed.
THE BALANCE OF HARDSHIPS AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST
The Government has not shown that a stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. Although we agree that “the Government’s interest in combating terrorism is an urgent objective of the highest order,” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 28 (2010), the Government has done little more than reiterate that fact. Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument that the district court’s order merely returned the nation temporarily to the position it has occupied for many previous years. The Government 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. [FN 7: Although the Government points to the fact that Congress and the Executive identified the seven countries named in the Executive Order as countries of concern in 2015 and 2016, the Government has not offered any evidence or even an explanation of how the national security concerns that justified those designations, which triggered visa requirements, can be extrapolated to justify an urgent need for the Executive Order to be immediately reinstated.] 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, as explained above… .
By contrast, the States have offered ample evidence that if the Executive Order were reinstated even temporarily, it would substantially injure the States and multiple “other parties interested in the proceeding.” Nken, 556 U.S. at 434 (quoting Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). When the Executive Order was in effect, the States contend that the travel prohibitions harmed the States’ university employees and students, separated families, and stranded the States’ residents abroad. These are substantial injuries and even irreparable harms. See Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990, 1002 (9th Cir. 2012) (“It is well established that the deprivation of constitutional rights ‘unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’” (quoting Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976))).
The Government suggests that the Executive Order’s discretionary waiver provisions are a sufficient safety valve for those who would suffer unnecessarily, but it has offered no explanation for how these provisions would function in practice: how would the “national interest” be determined, who would make that determination, and when?…
For the foregoing reasons, the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal is DENIED.