Montana Attorney General Tim Fox joined 15 other states on Tuesday in a legal brief that argues in support of President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from some majority-Muslim countries in a case that has reached the Supreme Court of the United States.
"The legal argument is pretty clear on this," Fox spokesman Eric Sell said. "The president has the authority. The attorney general is supporting the rule of law and the process."
At issue is whether the policy violates the country’s protections for religious freedom and the limits of the president’s authority on issues of immigration.
The executive order issued by the Republican president in early March would have barred people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days while the United States tightened screening processes, and also would have ended all refugee admissions for 120 days.
The order was blocked by a Maryland judge and that ruling was upheld last month by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Virginia. Because some of the timelines in the order are soon to pass, the nation’s highest court has agreed to take up an emergency order to reverse the lower court rulings, several months before the regular season when it might rule on the larger issues at hand.
An earlier version of the president's travel ban proposal was struck down by a Washington state judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Briefs from supporters, such as the coalition of 16 states, and those from opponents, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, are due to the nation's highest court by Monday.
Fox was one of 12 attorneys general and one governor to support the president’s policy with a unified legal brief in March. North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee have now signed onto the latest brief from the states arguing that the ban should be allowed to go into effect until the Supreme Court can take up the debate of the core constitutional concerns later this summer.
Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller wrote the most recent brief from the states.
Fox has not said whether he supports the travel ban as good immigration or national security policy.
"I don't think that's for any attorney general of a particular state to say. They can opine if they want to," Sell said, noting Fox has not talked about the merits of such a policy. "It's the attorney general's job to talk about the legal arguments, and the public policy discussion is for the federal legislative branch, U.S. Congress."