Supreme Court limits travel from Muslim nations

June 27, 2018

In a win that is sure to please President Trump’s base of anti-immigration voters, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on June 26 that the POTUS acted lawfully in imposing limits on travel from several predominantly Muslim nations, The New York Times reported.

The ban—which succeeded in the high court after two previous travel interdictions had failed—actually had been effective since December, as legal challenges from lower courts moved forward. It initially restricted travel for the purposes of work, study, or recreation from eight nations—six of them predominantly Muslim: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was later removed from the list.

The state of Hawaii, as well as several individual plaintiffs and a Muslim group, had challenged the ban—saying it was tainted by religious animus and was not justified by national security concerns. Conversely, none of the plaintiffs had objected to an injunction on travel from North Korea or Venezuela.

Writing for the court in Trump v. Hawaii, Chief Justice Roberts “skillfully demolished the two arguments against the ban—that it was an excess of presidential authority, and that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.” The Daily Beast reported, adding, “…The reasoning was the same: in a different context, perhaps the Court would look under the hood at what Trump is really doing here. But because this is supposedly about national security, it won’t.”

Quoting an earlier decision, he wrote “the upshot of our cases in this context is clear: ‘Any rule of constitutional law that would inhibit the flexibility” of the President “to respond to changing world conditions should be adopted only with the greatest caution,’ and our inquiry into matters of entry and national security is highly constrained.”

Among those in dissent was Justice Sonia Sotomayer, who wrote, ““Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments. Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.”

Earlier efforts

It was just days after his 2017 inauguration that Trump signed off on his first travel ban—creating chaos at the nation’s airports and triggering a tidal wave of lawsuits and appeals. Trump’s executive order banned refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, and  placed an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees. It also blocked citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. However, that first ban, drafted in haste, was blocked by courts nationwide.

At that time, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found that 49% of American adults were either “strongly” or “somewhat” in agreement with Trump’s order, while 41% were “strongly” or “somewhat” in disagreement, and another 10% didn’t know. The responses were split almost entirely along party lines. Some 53% of Democrats said they “strongly disagreed” with Trump’s action, while 51% of Republicans said they “strongly agreed.”

Trump tried again in March 2017. His new executive order continued to impose a 90-day ban on travel, but it removed Iraq—a redaction requested by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who feared it would hamper the military coordination necessary to defeat the Islamic State, according to administration officials.

The SCOTUS allowed part of a second version of the ban to go into effect last June when the judges agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeals arguments. At that time, the court said the ban could not be imposed on anyone who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” However, the case was dismissed when the ban expired in October.

Research contact: @adamliptak

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