Supreme Court Approves Measure Targeting Six Mostly Muslim Countries
The US supreme court ruled on Monday that a ban ordered by Donald Trump on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and two other countries could be immediately imposed while multiple court cases challenging the ban are resolved.
The ultimate disposition of the ban was expected to take months to resolve. But the 7-2 ruling by the high court was a blow to anti-discrimination advocates, who vowed to protest the decision.
The ban means that the United States would categorically refuse entry visas to prospective travelers from the countries of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, plus North Korea and Venezuela.
Under an executive action announced in July, an exception would be made for travelers with “bona fide” links inside the United States such as documented business purposes or close family relationships.
The ruling does not mean that the supreme court has accepted the ban as constitutional, but that it finds persuasive the Trump administration’s argument that an emergency injunction against the ban was unnecessary.
The high court is expected to weigh the ban on its merits – and to rule on whether it violates constitutional protections against discrimination – in the coming months.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the ruling. But notably, justice Elena Kagan, a Barack Obama nominee, sided with the majority.
The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, hailed the ruling as “a substantial victory for the safety and security of the American people”, despite the advice of terrorism scholars who say that security justifications for the ban are misleading.
The progressive Center for Constitutional Rights decried the supreme court ruling in a statement.
“We will not allow this to become the new normal,” the center said. “Whatever the courts say, the Muslim Ban is inhumane and discriminatory. We must continue to demonstrate that we reject and will resist the politics of fear, anti-Muslim racism, and white supremacy.”
The Trump administration has denied that the ban is discriminatory along religious lines. But the president himself may have undercut that argument, legal analysts said, by tweeting anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right group late last month.
The president’s first ban, issued in January, was chaotically rolled out and quickly blocked by a series of lower court rulings. The second attempt, a more streamlined version of the first, was also blocked by the lower courts but eventually allowed to come into effect in a limited form over the summer.
Lawyers challenging the administration’s successive travel bans have argued that each iteration of the restrictions suffers from the same discriminatory intent, evolving from Trump’s pledge as a presidential candidate to enforce a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.
The San Francisco-based ninth US circuit court of appeals and the fourth US circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Virginia, will be holding arguments on the legality of the ban this week.
Both courts are dealing with the issue on an accelerated basis, and the supreme court noted it expected those courts to reach decisions “with appropriate dispatch”.
Quick resolution by appellate courts would allow the supreme court to hear and decide the issue this term, by the end of June.
Following the supreme court ruling on Monday afternoon, lawyers involved in the current challenges to Trump’s ban vowed to continue fighting.
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s immigrants’ rights project, who has argued the case in the fourth appeals circuit said in a statement: “It’s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims.”
He added: “We continue to stand for freedom, equality, and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones. We will be arguing Friday in the Fourth Circuit that the ban should ultimately be struck down.”