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Both sides press Supreme Court on travel ban

WASHINGTON — Opponents of the Trump administration travel ban are urging the Supreme Court to hear and decide a pending court challenge, despite a new travel policy that President Donald Trump announced last week.

The administration is taking the opposite view. It’s asking the justices to dismiss the case because a new policy is in place.

Both sides in the dispute that has raged almost since Trump took office in January filed letters with the high court Thursday addressing whether the case should be dismissed.

The American Civil Liberties Union asked the court to rule now on the travel ban because the latest version “continues to relay a message of disparagement” to Muslims.

Noel Francisco, the administration’s chief Supreme Court lawyer, told the justices that there is no sense in holding argument or issuing a decision about policies no longer in effect or soon to expire.

“The United States respectfully submits that both of these appeals are now or soon will be moot,” Francisco wrote the court, referring to the travel ban and a separate temporary pause on refugees that will expire Oct. 24.

The justices canceled an argument session that was set for next week and asked the parties to weigh in about whether the court should sidestep, for now, ruling on the legality of a travel ban that affected visitors from six mostly Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The ban expired Sept. 24. It was immediately replaced by a revised policy that the administration has said is the result of a lengthy process, based on an objective assessment of each country’s security situation and willingness to share information with the U.S.

Opponents have described the changes as window dressing that leave in place the heart of what they call a Muslim ban.

The administration has taken Sudan off the list and added Chad and North Korea, along with several officials from the government of Venezuela. The new policy takes full effect on Oct. 18.

Immigrant advocacy and civil rights groups already have challenged the new policy.

The two sides also disagreed about what the court should do if it decides not to hear the case now. The administration urged the justices to throw out lower court rulings against earlier versions of the ban. Otherwise, the administration said, opponents will try to use those decisions to bolster their challenges to the new policy.

Leave the lower court rulings against the ban in place, opponents urged. The administration controlled most of the timing issues that led to this point, and the court should not reward it by throwing out rulings that were unfavorable to the administration, the opponents said.

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