NC AG joins in as legal battle over travel ban heats up

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Josh Stein has filed a Friend of Court Brief.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who told ABC11 last week that he was considering taking legal action against the Trump Administration on behalf of North Carolinians affected by the travel ban, has filed a Friend of the Court Brief joining the lawsuit by attorneys general from 15 other states and the District of Columbia.

The filing urges a federal court to uphold a lower court ruling that issued a stay of President Donald Trump's immigration order that limited entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries with links to terrorism.

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Stein said he thinks the travel ban is unconstitutional because in his eyes, it discriminates on the basis of religion.

WATCH: NC Attorney General Josh Stein talks to ABC11's Steve Daniels
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NC Attorney General Josh Stein

Meanwhile, the Justice Department filed a new defense of Trump's ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations as a federal appeals court weighs whether to restore the administration's executive order. The lawyers said the travel ban was a "lawful exercise" of the president's authority to protect national security and said a judge's order that put the policy on hold should be overruled.

The filing with the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest salvo in a high-stakes legal fight surrounding Trump's order, which was halted Friday by a federal judge in Washington state.

A randomly selected panel of appellate judges is to hear arguments Tuesday.

The appeals court earlier refused to immediately reinstate the ban, and lawyers for Washington and Minnesota - two states challenging it - argued anew Monday that any resumption would "unleash chaos again," separating families and stranding university students.

The Justice Department responded that the president has clear authority to "suspend the entry of any class of aliens" to the U.S. in the name of national security. It said the travel ban, which temporarily suspends the country's refugee program and immigration from seven countries with terrorism concerns, was intended "to permit an orderly review and revision of screening procedures to ensure that adequate standards are in place to protect against terrorist attacks."

The State Department said people from the seven countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - with valid visas could travel to the U.S. The Homeland Security Department said it was no longer directing airlines to prevent affected visa holders from boarding U.S.-bound planes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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