In a five to four vote, the Supreme Court has upheld President Trump’s third travel ban against several predominantly Muslim countries, reasoning that the President has broad statutory authority to make such judgments related to national security and immigration, which is not undermined by his previous insensitive and discriminatory statements against Muslims. This decision comes after a federal judge in Hawaii indefinitely blocked Trump’s travel ban earlier this year, challenging its constitutionality and referencing anti-Muslim statements made by the President. This block on the travel ban was upheld by two federal appeals courts, citing religious discrimination as their reason to uphold the decision, before being brought before the Supreme Court.
While acknowledging that President Trump had made previous statements regarding his intention to impose a “Muslim ban,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. states in the majority opinion that the issue before the Supreme Court is "not whether to denounce the statements,” but rather it is for the Supreme Court to “consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself.” Chief Justice Roberts concluded his opinion by explaining that the Trump administration’s proclamation when viewed alone was both neutral and justified by concerns over national security. “The proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nationals to improve their practices,” Chief Justice Roberts says.
Four liberal Supreme Court Justices strongly dissented from the majority’s ruling in favor of the travel ban. Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined together to speak out against President Trump’s anti-Muslim statements and religious bias, while dismissing the majority’s argument that the travel ban is constitutional based on national security and accusing them of “unquestioning acceptance.” In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor says:
The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. 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 a façade of national-security concerns. But this repackaging does little to cleanse Presidential Proclamation No. 9645 of the appearance of discrimination that the President’s words have created. Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus. That alone suffices to show that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim. The majority holds otherwise by ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.
While President Trump calls this decision a “tremendous victory,” and vindication against the Democrats’ refusal to secure the nation’s borders, government officials and immigration advocates throughout the US have voiced their strong disapproval of this Supreme Court decision. “Common sense, decency, and the rule of law lost today with the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding President Donald Trump’s xenophobic travel ban on five Muslim-majority countries. This policy is cruel, and contrary to our nation’s values, principles, and established history as a country founded and built by immigrants,” Hasan Shafiqullah, Attorney-In-Charge of the Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society, says.