- The US Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
- In a 5-4 decision split along partisan lines, the justices ruled that presidents have substantial power to regulate immigration.
- The plaintiffs had argued in their lawsuit that Trump’s travel ban was discriminatory against Muslims.
The travel ban was Trump’s third attempt at restricting travel from certain majority-Muslim countries after federal courts blocked the previous two.
The third ban imposed restrictions on travellers coming to the US from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, North Korea, and Venezuela. Chad was also originally listed in the ban, but the Trump administration later removed it.
“SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!” Trump tweeted shortly after the ruling came out.
At issue in the case, Trump v. Hawaii, were two main questions: whether Trump has the authority under federal immigration law to implement such travel restrictions and whether the travel ban violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favouring one religion over another.
The Trump administration had argued that the president has “broad authority” to restrict travel to the US over terrorism and national-security concerns. The plaintiffs had argued that the ban discriminated against Muslims and essentially fulfilled Trump’s 2016 campaign promises to impose a “Muslim ban.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion, agreed with the Trump administration and declared that the travel ban fell “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority.”
Roberts said that Trump’s previous comments calling for a “Muslim ban” weren’t relevant to the travel ban, especially since the ban “says nothing about religion.”
“The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements,” Roberts wrote. “It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility.”
He also argued that Trump’s national-security justifications were convincing, and it was unlikely that the ban was motivated by religious animus. Despite that five of the seven countries included in the ban have majority-Muslim populations, that fact in and of itself doesn’t prove religious hostility, Roberts said.
“The policy covers just 8% of the world’s Muslim population and is limited to countries that were previously designated by Congress or prior administrations as posing national security risks,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, in a seeming acknowledgment of the controversial nature of the travel ban, Roberts said that the court’s opinion expressed “no view on the soundness of the policy.”
In an unexpected twist, the ruling overturned the infamous 1944 Korematsu v. United States decision, which deemed it constitutional for the government to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II. Trump critics have compared the travel ban to the Korematsu ruling, arguing that it similarly targeted people based on their ethnicity.
‘The final chapter has not yet been written’
The court’s conservative-aligned justices voted to uphold the ban, with Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch concurring with Roberts’ opinion.
The more liberal justices, including Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, opposed the ban.
In her dissenting opinion, Sotomayor wrote that any “reasonable observer” would conclude that the travel ban was “motivated by anti-Muslim animus.”
She said her colleagues on the bench decided otherwise by “ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”
Neal Katyal, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement he was “disappointed by the outcome” but “heartened that our system of government worked as the founders intended.” He called upon Congress to reverse the ban.
“We continue to believe, as do four dissenting justices, that the travel ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American,” Katyal said. “We decided long ago that America doesn’t exclude people based on nationality or religion alone. Today, that principle has been challenged. But the final chapter has not yet been written.”