The U.S. Supreme Court has partly reimposed President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries and on refugees.

The move ensures the continuation of one of the most divisive battles of the Trump administration, with the White House arguing the bans are intended to guard against terrorism, while civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups contend they are motivated by Islamophobia.

It is also likely, some immigration lawyers say, to continue pushing immigrants toward Canada, as international students and workers who are worried about their prospects in the United States try the country to the north instead. Mr. Trump brought down his original order in January, banning entry by nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and blocking refugees from all countries for 180 days. After the federal court struck down that order, Mr. Trump revised it in March, dropping Iraq from the list and carving out exemptions for people who have a U.S. green card. The second order was also struck down and the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.

On Monday, the top court agreed to hear the case in the fall. In the interim, the justices decreed the order can take effect – but only for travellers and refugees who have no “bona fide relationship” to people or organizations in the United States. This means that people from the six countries or refugees who have family or a job in the United States, or have been accepted at U.S. schools, will still be allowed in.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump promised a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” a vow that opponents of the executive orders contend shows the directives are driven by unconstitutional religious discrimination.

In a statement, the President hailed the Supreme Court decision as a “clear victory for our national security.”

“It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective,” he said.

Immigration advocates planned to descend on the country’s airports to help people who are affected by the order. The Dulles Justice Coalition, which camped out at the major international airport near Washington for several weeks after the original order earlier this year, launched an online drive on Monday to sign up volunteers, including lawyers, for the effort.

And the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which challenged the executive order in court, said it would monitor the enforcement of the ban to ensure border guards are not excluding anyone who has a connection to the United States.

“We will certainly be watching to make sure the government doesn’t take an excessively broad approach,” said Cecillia Wang, the ACLU’s deputy legal director.

And the court’s decision could have a spillover effect on Canada.

Elizabeth Long, an immigration lawyer at Long Mangalji in Toronto, said her firm has seen a tenfold increase in prospective immigrants getting in touch in recent months. These people are largely skilled workers or university students who wanted to go to the United States, but set their sights on Canada instead after Mr. Trump’s executive order.

“It’s provided a chilling effect for the U.S., while Canada has been heating up as a desirable place,” she said.

Aadil Mangalji, a partner at the same firm, said if the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rules in favour of the executive order, the Safe Third Country Agreement could face challenges in Canadian courts. The agreement requires refugees to make asylum claims in the first safe country in which they arrive, meaning that refugees who land in the United States cannot then make a claim in Canada. But Mr. Mangalji said refugees could make a legal argument that the executive order means the United States is no longer safe for them.

“It will be interesting to determine if America is providing protection” with the orders in place, Mr. Mangalji said. Because the agreement is enforced only at border crossings, many refugees last winter crossed illegally, primarily into Manitoba or Quebec.

Bashir Khan, a Winnipeg immigration lawyer representing many of the asylum seekers who came to Canada from the United States earlier this year, said he doubted the court ruling would drive more people to jump the border. The people this winter were motivated by fear Mr. Trump’s government would have refugees rounded up, which has not happened, he said.

“People were coming at the beginning of the year because there was fear of mass deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There is no mass deportation in the U.S., so there is no push factor,” he said.

WASHINGTON — The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jun. 26, 2017 10:35AM EDT
Last updated Monday, Jun. 26, 2017 9:22PM EDT