Supreme Court decides to hear Trump travel ban arguments

Last Updated Jun 26, 2017 4:57 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has decided to hear arguments on President Trump's travel ban affecting six countries, mostly Muslim, that are deemed by the federal government to present a higher risk of terrorism to the U.S. The case will be argued in October.

The high court also lifted most of the injunction blocking President Trump's travel ban, allowing it to take effect in most instances.

Here are a few of the highlights from the Supreme Court's decision to take the case:

  • The Supreme Court will hear the case in October
  • It mostly overturned the two lower court orders preventing the travel ban from going into effect
  • The Trump administration will in most cases be able to enforce its 90-day ban on travelers from Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Syria
  • Mr. Trump said last week that the ban would go into effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts
  • One category of foreigners remains protected, those with "a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity" in the U.S., according to the Supreme Court opinion
  • The action by the court is a victory for President Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his presidency so far

The opinion was Per Curiam -- that is, it was an unsigned decision, and the Supreme Court did not release the breakdown of the justices' votes. But because there were also no dissents on the question of hearing arguments in the travel ban case, it's assumed that that the decision to take it up is likely to have been 9-0, or unanimous. This is was the way that the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions interpreted the opinion.

The president said in a statement that he was "particularly gratified that the Supreme Court's decision was 9-0."

However, there was another part of the decision, regarding the implementation of the travel ban, which had been stayed by two appeals courts.

The justices allowed the ban to be blocked, in accordance with the lower court rulings, as it applies to travellers with "a credible claim" of a "bona fide relationship with a person or entity" in the U.S.

On this question, a dissenting opinion was issued, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, and joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. These three think the partial implementation of the ban is not enough, and the ban should have been reinstated in its entirety for the six countries.

The country had been waiting for the court to make its decision public about the biggest legal controversy in the first five months of Mr. Trump's presidency. The Supreme Court usually saves its most important decisions for the final day of the term. The issue has been tied up in the courts since his original order in January sparked confusion and widespread protests just days after he took office.

The justices met Thursday morning for their last regularly scheduled private conference in June and probably took a vote then about whether to let the Trump administration immediately enforce the ban and hear the administration's appeal of lower court rulings blocking the ban.

The court had to decide before late this week, after which the justices will scatter for the summer for speeches, teaching gigs and vacations.

It would have taken five votes to reinstate the ban, but it only took four to set the case for argument. Justice Neil Gorsuch, Mr. Trump's nominee who was confirmed in April, is taking part in the highest-profile issue yet in his three months on the court.

The case is at the Supreme Court because two federal appellate courts have ruled against the Trump travel policy, which would impose a 90-day pause in travel from citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the ban was "rooted in religious animus" toward Muslims and pointed to Mr. Trump's campaign promise to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country as well as tweets and remarks he has made since becoming president. The ban "stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation," the chief judge of the circuit, Roger L. Gregory wrote.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the travel policy does not comply with federal immigration law, including a prohibition on nationality-based discrimination. That court also put a hold on separate aspects of the policy that would keep all refugees out of the United States for 120 days and cut by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000, the cap on refugees in the current government spending year that ends Sept. 30.

The White House had asked the Supreme Court to allow it to start enforcing this policy and hear arguments about in the fall. The administration believes the Supreme Court is its best hope of having this policy upheld after the two appeals courts blocked it.

President Trump's first executive order on travel applied to travelers from the six countries as well as Iraq, and took effect immediately, causing chaos and panic at airports over the last weekend in January as the Homeland Security Department scrambled to figure out who the order covered and how it was to be implemented.

A federal judge blocked it eight days later, an order that was upheld by a 9th circuit panel. Rather than pursue an appeal, the administration said it would revise the policy.

In March, the president issued a narrower order, but it, too, had been blocked.

The government has argued that the ban was needed to allow for an internal review of the screening procedures for visa applicants from the six countries.

CBS News' Paula Reid and Jan Crawford contributed to this story.