This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary ruling allowing President Trump's travel ban to be enforced while its constitutionality is assessed. The ban applies to at least some residents of eight countries: Libya, Somalia, Chad, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.
In November, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard a challenge about the constitutionality of this version of the ban. The appellate preliminarily concluded that the ban was allowable as long as it did not apply to people with a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." That was defined as meaning most first-degree family relationships and certain existing business or government relationships. The 9th Circuit was scheduled to hear arguments for a permanent ruling this week. The 4th Circuit is also set to hear arguments on the issue.
Before those arguments took place, the Supreme Court issued its order stating that the travel ban will be enforced during the litigation. That means the ban is now in force as arguments continue. The federal courts will issue opinions but will find it extremely difficult to block application of the ban even if they find it unconstitutional.
Does the ruling mean the Supreme Court approves of the ban?
Not necessarily. They may only be signaling deference to the president's broad authority over immigration and national security matters.
However, at least one legal expert believes the court's position signals a positive view of the ban.
"It suggests that from their understanding, the government is more likely to prevail on the merits than we might have thought," says a law professor from the University of California Hastings.
What happens to those with bona fide relationships with someone in the US?
Since the Supreme Court did not put conditions on the enforcement of the ban, having a relationship with a person or entity in the U.S. will no longer mean people will be approved to come here. Officials do have the authority to make exceptions from the ban on a case-by-case basis.
For those wishing to travel from the countries affected by the ban, this is bad news. Although it may still be possible to obtain a visa to the United States, most people will not be granted one for now.
If the courts of appeal issue permanent rulings quickly, they may set the stage for the Supreme Court to hear the case in the current term, which ends in June. The high court said he expects those courts to do so "with appropriate dispatch."