The U.S. Supreme Court says it will consider the case of President Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel - and in the meantime much of the order may take effect.
Trump’s revised executive order, known as the travel ban, halted travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and halted the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. The order said these steps were necessary in order to revise security screening to safeguard the nation from external threats.
The travel order had been placed under restraining orders by two separate courts, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland. Both rulings were sustained by separate appeals courts.
But the nation's highest court took a more nuanced view, allowing the ban on travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and the suspension of the refugee program.
The justices, however, said the ban on travel cannot be enforced against "foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."
The court goes on to define relationships that would qualify: for individuals, a family relationship; for students, admittance to a college or university; for workers, a job offer.
Trump has said that the travel order would go into effect 72 hours after a high court ruling.
In a statement Monday, he called the Supreme Court decision "a clear victory."
In a statement Monday, he called the Supreme Court decision "a clear victory." The president added that the ruling helps him protect the homeland. "As President, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm. I want people who can love the United States and all of its citizens, and who will be hardworking and productive," he said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said implementation of the travel order "will be done professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers, and in coordination with partners in the travel industry."
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said the president is expected to protect borders, but that the creation of the executive order lacks logic "other than appealing to people's prejudices."
"We absolutely believe in the president's power to uphold national security, but he just needs to do so in a way that doesn't discriminate against people simply because of their nation of origin or because of their religion," Chin said.
The justices are expected to hear the travel order case in the fall, but they noted that they will also consider whether the case is moot at the that point. The measures spelled out in the order are meant to be temporary while the government reviews its security procedures.
Three of court's most conservative justices dissented in part. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing on behalf of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, said the entire travel order should be implemented because the partial implementation is not enforceable.
"I fear the court's remedy will prove unworkable," Thomas wrote. "[It] will burden executive officials with the task of deciding - on peril of contempt - whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection with a person or entity in this country."
The ruling invites "a flood of litigation," Thomas writes.
The part of the order banning travelers from six countries was blocked first by the Fourth Circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Virginia, which ruled that Trump's own statements and tweets made the case that the travel order was a ban on Muslims.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later stayed both the six-country ban and cessation of the refugee program. But this court based its ruling on statuary grounds, saying Trump had exceeded his lawful authority.
Civil rights and pro-immigration groups have objected to the order as being unconstitutional discrimination against Muslims.
Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma told VOA the Supreme Court’s action reaffirms the president’s role in determining who may enter the United States, adding that Trump’s executive order is misunderstood.
"What he [Trump] implemented never felt like a Muslim ban, because the largest Muslim countries in the world are unaffected by it. He was dealing with war-torn countries like Syria, like Somalia, Libya – where there’s no established functioning government," he said. "We can’t guarantee who these individuals are [who want to come to the U.S.] because we have no paperwork, no trail for them.”
Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia called the high court’s action disappointing.
“The president’s travel ban does not send the right signal to countries around the world about who we are as Americans," he said. "And I was also surprised because there had been such unanimity in all the lower court decisions that this was prejudicial and had no [legal] standing.”
Refugee Activists React
During a press call, Becca Heller, executive director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, said the individuals most likely to be affected are those seeking tourist visas from the six countries in question. This is due to their potential inability to prove a relation to the United States that the Court’s ruling calls for.
As for refugees, Heller said their clients will largely not be affected and neither should the clients of other resettlement organizations. As of May 31 of this year, 46,403 refugees have been admitted into the U.S. - close to the cap of 50,000 that the Trump administration put into place.
Omar Jadwat, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the ACLU and resettlement agencies will keep a close eye on how the government implements the Court’s ruling, especially at airports and border entries.
Timeline: U.S. Travel Ban
VOA's Capitol Hill correspondent Michael Bowman contributed to this report.