The Supreme Court today upheld the Trump administration’s ban on travel from seven countries, voting 5-4 that the ban fell within the president’s authority and was not discriminatory, even though five of the nations are majority Muslim.
There were a number of legal challenges to the travel ban, but the State of Hawaii’s challenge heavily influenced the travel ban’s route to the nation’s highest court. Back in December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Trump’s travel ban “exceeded the scope of his delegated authority.” The Trump administration petitioned the Supreme Court to challenge that decision and the Trump v. Hawaii case began hearing arguments before the high court in April 2018.
In writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “the proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices.”
In that opinion, Roberts also addressed criticism that the ban unfairly targeted Muslims.
“The text says nothing about religion,” Roberts wrote. “Plaintiffs and the dissent nonetheless emphasize that five of the seven nations currently included in the proclamation have Muslim-majority populations. Yet that fact alone does not support an inference of religious hostility, given that 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.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissent to the ruling, saying the Court’s decision “fails to safeguard” the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment.
Here’s the Supreme Court’s full Trump v. Hawaii decision.
What does this ruling uphold?
Since the first executive order in January 2017, the Trump administration’s travel ban has been challenged three times in lower courts on both constitutional grounds and claims of religious discrimination.
The first version of the ban issued by executive order in January 2017 was a total ban on all travelers for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Green-card holders were initially told they would need waivers to be admitted but were later exempted from the ban. That ban was immediately blocked by a federal appeals court and met with lawsuits.
The second version of the ban issued in March 2017 removed Iraq from the list and reduced the number of refugees admitted through a federal resettlement program. That version was blocked by a district court in Hawaii just before it was about to go into effect. A federal judge in Hawaii later extended that ruling. In June 2017, the Supreme Court allowed parts of the ban to go into effect with some exceptions until it expired in September.
A third, more narrow version of the ban was issued in September 2017 and added three more countries, bringing the restricted list to eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. The ban applied to foreign nationals who “lack a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii blocked the order, but ultimately in December 2017, the Supreme Court ruled the ban could be fully enforced despite pending lawsuits and challenges in lower courts. Chad was later removed from the list in April 2018. The Supreme Court’s decision now upholds the travel ban for the remaining seven countries.
How did the Trump administration react to the decision?
President Trump tweeted his approval shortly after the announcement : “SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!”
The White House released an official statement on the ruling, stating it was “a tremendous victory for the American People and the Constitution” and “a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country.”