A federal appeals court declined Tuesday to rule on whether the government can bar non-citizens from being employed as airline screeners (search), sending the case back to a lower court to determine the fate of eight former screeners.

Two weeks ago, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the American Civil Liberties Union (search)'s challenge to that provision of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (search), which was passed in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

However, the law was amended last year to allow people from U.S. territories such as American Samoa to be airport screeners. Foreigners holding green cards are still barred from employment.

The appeals court asked a federal court in Los Angeles to re-examine the case in light of the change in the law.

The ACLU estimates 7,000 green-card holders lost their jobs as screeners when the law was passed.