In a close, 5-4 decision, this morning the US Supreme Court upheld the September 2017 version of President Trump’s travel ban. The ban restricts immigration to the US from eight majority Muslim countries on the basis of national security concerns. The original ban, issued in January 2017 was first challenged by Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson, but was subsequently revised and replaced by the one upheld by the Court today.
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The Court’s majority decision, presented by Chief Justice Roberts, discounted several arguments against the ban raised by Hawaii, who brought the ultimate challenge. Reinforcing the discretion of the executive with regard to national security, the Court’s decision came down against Hawaii on three main arguments:
- It rules that the Immigration and Nationality Act gives the President broad discretion to restrict immigration in the interests of national security.
- It holds that the law permits immigration restrictions based on national origin when tied to those countries’ deficiencies in vetting of potential immigrants.
- It finds that the ban does not likely violation the First Amendment’s free establishment clause even when considering President Trump’s statements as the ban appeared neutral on its face and presents a rational basis for the particular immigration exclusions.
Washington lawmakers have come out strongly against the ruling and its allegedly discriminatory effects.
AG Ferguson disapproved of the Court’s decision, but pointed out that Washington’s previous litigation had real impacts on narrowing the scope and impact of the President’s previous ban.
“Hawaii litigated this case. Washington state was not a party. Washington state successfully defeated the Trump Administration’s original travel ban. The Trump Administration chose not to appeal our victory to the Supreme Court, and paid our court costs. The third travel ban, affirmed by the Supreme Court today, is narrower than the travel ban Washington defeated last year. For example, the original travel ban applied to individuals with valid visas and green card holders. Our efforts made a real difference in the impacts of this policy. That said, today’s decision rejecting Hawaii’s challenge to a narrower version of the travel ban is disappointing.”
In a much stronger worded reaction to the decision, Governor Jay Inslee condemned the Court’s ruling and reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to inclusion, while calling for continued resistance against the Trump administration.
“It is abhorrent that, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the president’s Muslim ban, apparently turning a blind eye to the president’s own words and our country’s constitutional protections against discrimination. The president has made it clear that his Muslim ban and refugee policies were never intended to be about national security, but instead discrimination against certain people for their cultures and religious beliefs…
I remain more committed than ever in ensuring that Washington state remains a place where all people are welcomed, honored and accepted…
Today’s decision proves that the intended checks and balances on a rogue president have failed. Discrimination should never be accepted in this country. This is a clarion call for action from all of us.”
Finally, in a statement issued via Twitter, Senator Patty Murray focused on the decision’s humanitarian effects on refugees seeking to come to the US to escape global violence.
“Our country has long stood as a symbol of hope and security for people around the world fleeing persecution and violence, and turning our backs on our global neighbors during one of the worst refugee crises in recent history flies in the face of who we are as a nation.
I’m going to keep doing all I can to ensure that the front door of our nation remains open for anyone fleeing horrific violence and seeking to build a life in safety here in the United States—and urge President Trump to reverse his dangerous vision for America’s future.
Time and again President Trump has doubled down on his divisive rhetoric about refugees with policies that undermine critical humanitarian efforts and ignore the United States’ role as a world leader.”
In light of the most recent immigration debate over family separation, the Court’s decision reinforces the executive’s discretion to interpret and direct the application of immigration laws if tied to national security concerns. The question remains whether it will also embolden the administration to direct the laws application in other yet unaddressed manners.