The federal appeals court has upheld a temporary suspension of the travel ban

The chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Migration has welcomed a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a temporary restraining order against President Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries that also temporarily suspended the country’s refugee resettlement programme.

“We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a statement.

“At this time we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed in our country,” the statement said.

The bishop pledged that Church agencies would continue to welcome people “as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and traditions.”

In a decision issued late on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the government’s argument to lift the freeze on the president’s order and maintained that the court had jurisdiction in the case as a check on executive power.

Trump had argued that his order was a matter of national security and that the courts had no claim to adjudicate the issue.

The panel ruled otherwise, saying that such an argument “runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy”.

The administration is expected to file an appeal with the US Supreme Court.

Trump said in a posting on Twitter minutes after the ruling was released: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

He later told reporters that the judges had made “a political decision.”

The case was filed by the state of Washington, which argued that Trump’s order was unconstitutional because it discriminated against Muslims and that state agencies were harmed because students and employees were barred from re-entering the country. The state of Minnesota subsequently joined the lawsuit.

US District Court Judge James Robart of Seattle halted Trump’s travel ban on February 3 by granting a temporary restraining order.

Several lawsuits have been filed challenging Trump’s executive order that suspended the entire US refugee resettlement programme for 120 days and banned entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia – for 90 days.

Another clause in the order established religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.