The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 4 that the third version of President Donald Trump's travel ban can go into force, pending rulings by appeals courts.
Trump issued the current version of the ban in September, prohibiting travel to the U.S. for nationals of eight countries, reports The New York Times. These countries were Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
The Supreme Court's decision does not make any judgment about the legality of the ban. The justices urged the appeals courts considering challenges to the ban to decide on its legality as soon as possible.
The latest travel ban does not completely prohibit travel by all citizens of the nations it covers. For example, Iranians will still be able to travel to the U.S. as part of a student exchange, but will be subjected to stricter controls.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, who were arguing against allowing the measure to come into force, pointed to previous bans approved by Trump.
"The proclamation is the third order the president has signed this year banning more than 100 million individuals from Muslim-majority nations from coming to the United States," wrote the lawyers.
Lawyers representing the state of Hawaii concurred.
"Less than six months ago, this court considered and rejected a stay request indistinguishable from the one the government now presses," they wrote. "But the justification for that dramatic relief has only weakened. In place of a temporary ban on entry, the president has imposed an indefinite one, deepening and prolonging the harms a stay would inflict."
However, Solicitor General Noel Francisco maintained that the third version of the travel ban was different because it was based on a full review of the countries it targeted.
"Now that the review has been completed and identified ongoing deficiencies in the information needed to assess nationals of particular countries, additional restrictions are needed," Francisco added.
He also contended that as president, Trump enjoys broad authority to determine who can travel to the U.S.
Lower court judges in Hawaii and Maryland challenged the measure's validity and imposed injunctions on its enforcement. These injunctions have since been overturned by appeals courts.
"A nationality-based travel ban against eight nations consisting of over 150 million people is unprecedented," ruled Judge Theodore Chang of Maryland.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a hearing in Seattle on Dec. 6 to determine the legality of the travel ban, while separate proceedings at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will take place in Virginia on Dec. 8.
The hearings come on the heels of Trump's sharing of videos via Twitter from a far-right British political party promoting anti-Muslim ideas.
Neal Katyal, attorney for the state of Hawaii, responded by alleging that Trump's actions demonstrated his travel ban discriminates on the basis of religion.
"Thanks! See you in court next week," Katyal wrote on Twitter, reports Reuters.