On April 25th, 2018 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides on President Trump’s highly scrutinized “travel ban”. The travel ban, now in its third iteration, prohibits entry of travelers from five Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya), as well as North Korea and government officials from Venezuela. Although previous versions of the travel ban were initially partially blocked by U.S. District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland, the Supreme Court lifted such injunctions in December 2017.
Since Trump first issued his travel order, setting off widespread chaos at airports just a few days after his inauguration, the issue has strongly shaped public perceptions of the new administration. It has also led to a string of defeats in lower courts, where judges ruled that the measure exceeded Trump’s authority and, in some cases, said it reflected bias against Muslims.
However, the Supreme Court of the United States has provided a friendlier forum, on this topic. The justices issued a ruling in June 2017 that allowed the second version of the travel ban to take partial effect. Then, in December 2017, with only two dissenting votes, they set aside lower-court rulings to allow the administration to put the third version into practice, a strong indicator of where the majority was headed.
Justice Samuel A. Alito rejected the notion Trump’s order could be considered a “Muslim ban,” noting it does not apply to most of the largest Muslim nations.
“If you look at what was done, it does not look like a Muslim ban,” he said.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s appointee, questioned whether the challengers had standing to sue in the first place. Foreigners overseas do not have rights in U.S. courts, he said. Plaintiffs who live in Hawaii sued, contending the travel ban was illegal, but “third parties can’t vindicate the rights of aliens,” Gorsuch said.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy portrayed the issue before the court as one of national security in which the chief executive, not the judicial branch, should be entrusted to weigh possible threats from foreign visitors.
A final decision by the Court is expected at the end of June. Meanwhile, the current version of the travel ban remains in effect during deliberation. Continue reading