The U.S. Supreme Court canceled oral arguments scheduled in October to decide the legality of President Donald Trump's previous travel ban, signaling the court might dismiss the case.
The Court acted after the White House announced on Sunday it was replacing the temporary executive order with a more tailored ban on eight countries that legal experts said could be harder to fight in court than the prior ban.
The justices ordered further briefing on whether the new presidential proclamation, which indefinitely restricts travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, would render the prior case moot. Sunday's order also bars certain government officials from Venezuela.
The new ban is Trump's third.
Trump's March 6 temporary travel ban, which replaced another ban from January and expired on Sunday, targeted six Muslim-majority countries. It sparked international outrage and was quickly blocked by federal courts as unconstitutional discrimination or a violation of immigration law.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a limited version of the ban to go ahead while the justices examined its legality. It was preparing to hear arguments on Oct. 10, before removing the case from its schedule on Monday.
The Sunday proclamation could be less vulnerable to legal attack, scholars and other experts said, because it is the result of a months-long analysis of foreign vetting procedures by U.S. officials. It also might be less easily tied to Trump's campaign-trail statements some courts viewed as biased against Muslims.
"The greater the sense that the policy reflects a considered, expert judgment, the less the temptation (by courts) to second-guess the executive," said Saikrishna Prakash, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, in an email. "It looks less like a matter of prejudice or a desire to fulfill a campaign promise."
In 2016, more than 72,000 nonimmigrant and immigrant visas were issued to the countries covered by the new ban, excluding Venezuela, with nearly half of those going to Iran. The new ban provides some exemptions for Iranians with valid student visas. Only nine North Koreans immigrated to the United States in 2016 and 100 were granted nonimmigrant visas.
The new ban is set to go into effect on Oct. 18, but it already applies to five of the six countries covered by the March 6 ban, according to a U.S. State Department cable issued on Sunday and obtained by Reuters. (To read the full cable click here: http://live.reuters.com/Event/Live_US_Politics/1093572667)
Sudan was dropped from the list of banned countries after the Sudanese government provided information required under the new criteria set out by the Trump administration earlier this year, a White House official said on Monday.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York. Additional reporting by; Lawrence Hurley, Yegeneh Torbati and Jeff Mason in Washington,; Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Peter Henderson and Richard Chang)