A federal appeals court is expected to decide later this week whether President Trump's travel ban should be kept on hold due to legal challenges against it.
A attorney for the Department of Justice and an attorney representing Washington state and Minnesota argued before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday afternoon.
The hearing came after a Washington state judge issued a nationwide stay on Trump's order Friday.
The same day, a judge in Boston would not extend a stay on detention and deportations.
The order temporarily bans most people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. It also suspends admission of all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. The order has sparked protests nationwide.
The U.S. government argued the lower court's decision infringed on the president's lawful ability to make national security decisions.
Justice Department Special Counsel August Flentje said, "The first irreparable injury has to do with the assessment of risk that the president made. ... The president struck that balance, and the district court's order has upset that balance."
Washington state Solicitor General Noah Purcell said, "It's really the federal government that's asking the court to upset the status quo. We've — things have slowly gone — are returning to normal to the situation before the chaos of the executive order."
The three judges seemed skeptical of both arguments, frequently interrupting attorneys.
"Yes, your honor, these proceedings have been moving quite fast, and we're doing the best we can. I can cite — " Flentje said.
"You're saying that the proceedings are moving fast, but you appealed to us before you continued in the district court to develop the record, so why should we be hearing this now if it sounds like you're trying to say you're going to present other evidence later?" Judge Michelle Friedland asked.
Judge Richard Clifton pressed Purcell, "I have trouble understanding why we're supposed to infer religious animus, when in fact the vast majority of Muslims would not be affected as residents of those nations and where the concern for terrorism with those connected with radical Islamic sects is kind of hard to deny."
Hours before the hearing, Trump said the case could go to the Supreme Court, but he hopes it doesn't.
"It's common sense. You know, some things are law, and I'm all in favor of that. And some things are common sense. This is common sense," Trump said.