If Supreme Court had not acted, administration's efforts to halt refugee entry would have been dealt major blow.
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to uphold President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees from entering the U.S., hours before it was set to be upended.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week refugee resettlement agencies should be allowed to bring asylum seekers into the country, overruling the order's mandate to ban refugee entry. It also said relatives of those already in the country could not be prevented from entering the U.S.
In response to a Monday morning emergency request from the Justice Department, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy agreed to halt the appellate court’s ruling "pending receipt of" a response from those suing over the ban, which he said is due Tuesday at noon (1600GMT).
If the top court did not act, the ruling could have gone into effect as early as Tuesday.
In a 75-page Supreme Court filing, the administration did not contest the latter ruling, but said because it has already received 24,000 "assurances", or resettlement requests, from agencies "the Ninth Circuit’s decision renders" an earlier Supreme Court decision to stay previous lower court rulings "inoperative".
"This Court’s ruling cannot plausibly bear that construction, which would as a practical matter render the partial stay this Court granted as to the refugee provisions a dead letter," the administration said.
It added that assurance agreements are made with the federal government and thus do not "create any relationship whatsoever with the refugee.”
The Supreme Court allowed parts of Trump's executive order to take effect in June while saying those who have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States" should be exempted.
The Trump administration and a series of challengers have disagreed about what constitutes a "bona fide relationship", with the 9th Circuit ruling last week that the administration too narrowly defined qualifying familial relations.
The travel ban has been widely criticized as an unconstitutional Muslim ban. It puts a freeze on new visas for travelers coming from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments next month on whether the ban is constitutional.