President Donald Trump’s broad powers over immigration to protect national security aren’t canceled by his campaign statements calling for a Muslim ban, a sharply divided Supreme Court said Tuesday.
On a 5-4 vote, the court upheld the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban restricting immigration from select countries, giving the president a judicial victory after a series of setbacks.
Federal law grants a president “broad discretion” to suspend residents of other countries from entering the United States, the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts said.
“The president lawfully exercised that discretion based on his findings – following a worldwide, multi-agency review – that entry of the covered aliens would be detrimental to the national interest,” Roberts said.
The executive order covering eight countries “falls well within” that discretion, and provides a process for a country to end the restrictions by meeting certain standards to identify its citizens who seek to immigrate. One country that was initially under the ban was later removed for that reason.
Those challenging the ban said it should be overturned on freedom of religion grounds, because of Trump’s campaign statements calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. But the order says nothing about religion, and the fact that five of the seven nations remaining under the order are predominantly Muslim doesn’t prove religious hostility, the chief justice said.
“The policy covers just 8 percent 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,” Roberts wrote.
The government provided enough justification for the policy to survive the court challenge, he said: “We express no opinion on the soundness of the policy. We simply hold today that (opponents) have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional claim.”
A lower court’s nationwide injunction against the policy was voided and the case sent down for further consideration in line with the Supreme Court’s decision.
Trump said the ruling vindicated his decision.
“The ruling shows that all of the attacks from the media and the Democratic politicians are wrong, and they turned out to be very wrong, and what we’re looking for as Republicans, I can tell you, is strong borders, no crime,” the Associated Press reported.
Trump supporters across the country applauded the decision. Tom Fitton, president of the conservative Judicial Watch, called it “a victory for national security, the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law and the safety of U.S. citizens and other innocents.”
In a forceful dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the majority was ignoring the facts and “turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering” the policy inflicts.
“It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ because the policy now masquerades behind the facade of national-security concerns,” she wrote.
In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee, the leader of the Democratic Governors Association and frequent Trump critic, called the decision “abhorrent.” State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office successfully challenged Trump’s first travel ban in 2017 but was not a plaintiff in this narrower rule, called it disappointing.
“Hawaii litigated this case,” Ferguson said in a statement released by his office. “The third travel ban, affirmed by the Supreme Court today, is narrower than the travel ban Washington defeated last year.”
Washington also filed a separate lawsuit over the most recent travel ban, but that case was halted on a stay from a lower court while the challenge from Hawaii went forward. Brionna Aho, a spokeswoman for Ferguson, said the office was waiting for direction from the court on how to proceed on its lawsuit.
A few hours after the Supreme Court decision was released Tuesday, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the administration challenging the immigration policy that separated parents and children detained for entering the country without proper documentation before that practice was put on hold by an executive order signed last Wednesday by Trump.
“We will stand up for the Constitution, basic decency and fundamental American values,” Ferguson said in announcing the filing of the new suit. “My office has not yet lost a lawsuit to the Trump Administration and we do not intend to lose this one.”
Aho said Tuesday’s decision should not be counted as a loss because Washington was not part of that suit.
The state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called it deeply disappointing.
“The Supreme Court has upheld a ban driven by anti-Muslim sentiment,” said Jasmin Samy, the council’s state executive director.
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