Donald Trump's executive order banning citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from coming to the U.S., and suspending the refugee program for all countries for almost four months, caused panic, chaos, and confusion at airports. Protests broke out at terminals around the country as some travelers were detained.
Lawyers showed up and spoke up—and they scored major victories.
On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a suspension of the order, effectively keeping it frozen nationwide–for now.
There's a lot happening very quickly–so here's a summary of what just happened to Trump's travel ban, and what could happen next.
What are the legal challenges to Trump's travel ban?
The University of Michigan Law School's Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is maintaining a list of the dozens of civil rights challenges to Trump's executive order. These cases—some of which have been dismissed—have been filed by a variety of organizations, including the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Some—though not all—of these cases resulted in emergency stays and temporary restraining orders that halted parts of Trump's executive order. For instance, a ruling by Judge Ann Donnelly of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York temporarily stopped the government from sending people who were detained in the U.S. back out of the country.
In the most prominent and far-reaching decision, Judge James Robart of the District Court for the Western District of Washington temporarily blocked portions of Trump's executive order nationwide, allowing travelers from the banned countries to come to America.
What happened in the Ninth Circuit?
The government filed an emergency appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asking for a stay of Robart's ruling, which would have resumed the travel ban. The states of Washington and Minnesota also filed a motion asking the court to continue suspending the ban.
The Ninth Circuit is based in San Francisco and is known for being one of the most liberal courts in the country.
Lawyers for the state of Washington and from the Department of Justice presented oral arguments to the court on Tuesday. On Thursday, the court unanimously ruled against the government's request for a stay. This means that the temporary restraining order on the Muslim ban is still in place, allowing people from the seven countries listed in the executive order with valid travel documents to continue to travel to the United States–for now.
In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit also said that Trump's campaign promises of a Muslim ban could be considered as evidence that the order isn't just a travel ban, as the president has recently claimed, but a ban that discriminates against Muslims on the basis of their religion.
Remember: The Ninth Circuit was not deciding on the constitutionality of Trump's travel ban or if it was discriminatory. Instead, the court's pretty narrow scope considered if the government could be harmed if the ban didn't go into effect immediately while the order continued through the rest of the legal process. The court ruled that, actually, everything would be fine.
What could happen next?
President Trump tweeted immediately after the Ninth Court's ruling came down on Thursday, making it clear that he is not done fighting for his Muslim ban, though Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson kindly reminded the president that they have already seen the president's ban in court–twice.
It was widely expected that the case would go to the Supreme Court next, but the White House told a Fox News reporter that it probably will not file an emergency SCOTUS appeal.
Instead, the White House said they will fight for the ban by defending the merits of the executive order itself in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Without nominee Neil Gorusch, the Supreme Court is currently ideologically split down the middle. If it had reviewed the case and tied 4-4, the ruling of the lower court would have stood, New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer reported.
CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos noted that other cases also hang in the balance in different courts around the country.
"The odds are that there will be a serious split among the federal appellate courts, one that can only be resolved by the high court," Cevallos explained.
Meanwhile, the AP reports that the president may issue a “brand new order” on immigration.
The president told reporters aboard Air Force One that he will probably act early next week, and that the new executive order would change “very little” from the original travel ban, according to the AP.
So: stay tuned! This legal fight is just getting started.
Note: this post was updated to include the latest news about the Trump administration's decision not to appeal the Ninth Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court.