The Supreme Court just upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which blocks the residents of eight countries, most of them Muslim-majority, from coming to the U.S.
The 5-4 decision in Trump v. Hawaii holds that Trump’s decision to ban travelers and immigrants from those countries was based on legitimate national security concerns. And despite comments made by Trump and members of his administration, the ban wasn’t about religion, the majority argued. The decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, holds that Trump was “squarely” within his rights as president to limit immigration from those eight countries.
Trump’s order “is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices," Roberts wrote. "The text says nothing about religion."
The ban upheld on Tuesday is actually the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban after the first two iterations, hastily put forward in the first days of Trump’s presidency, were scrapped and replaced. The Supreme Court ruling concerns only the order put forward in September of last year.
Trump responded to the ruling on Twitter, saying just "Wow!"
But it was Trump’s tweets that initially threatened to bring down his ban. The attorney for the challengers in the case, Neil Katyal, pointed to Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets as evidence that the president’s main intent was to ban immigrants from Muslim countries.
But the court ruled that the fact that the majority of the countries included in the ban had majority-Muslim populations wasn't enough to prove discrimination against Muslims.
“We continue to believe, as do four dissenting judges, that the travel ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary, and un-American,” Katyal said in a statement Tuesday after the decision came down. “Now that the Court has upheld it, it is up to Congress to do its job and reverse President Trump’s unilateral and unwise travel ban.”
The ruling came down on largely partisan lines: all the judges who upheld the ban — Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas — were all appointed by Republicans; all the judges who dissented — Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — were appointed by Democrats.
Tucked away in the ruling to uphold Trump’s travel ban is the overturning of another landmark Supreme Court decision: Korematsu v. U.S., which upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The dissent, written by Stephen Breyer, argued that, while it’s laudable to overturn the shameful Korematsu decision, the majority was merely replacing one discriminatory decision with another.
“By blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one 'gravely wrong' decision with another,” Breyer wrote.
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