President Donald Trump

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Supreme Court Upholds Trump's Travel Ban Targeting Several Muslim-Majority Countries

June 26, 2018 - 10:27 am
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Donald Trump's ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries, rejecting a challenge that it discriminated against Muslims or exceeded his authority.

The 5-4 decision is the court's first substantive ruling on a Trump administration policy.

The president reacted to the news tweeting, "SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!"

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by his four conservative colleagues. Roberts wrote that presidents have substantial power to regulate immigration. "The sole prerequisite," Roberts wrote, is "that the entry of the covered aliens 'would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.' The President has undoubtedly fulfilled that requirement here." Roberts pointed out that Trump had ordered an evaluation of every country's compliance with the risk assessment baseline and then issued the findings.

"Based on that review, he found that restricting entry of aliens who could not be vetted with adequate information was in the national interest," Roberts wrote.

Roberts also rejected the challengers' claim of anti-Muslim bias.

But he was careful not to endorse either Trump's provocative statements about immigration in general and Muslims in particular.

"We express no view on the soundness of the policy," Roberts wrote.

Cornell University Law School Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr said the decision was not unexpected.

“The Supreme Court has always been deferential to presidents on immigration issues, because immigration touches on national sovereignty and foreign relations,” Yale-Loehr told WCBS 880’s Michael Wallace. “President Trump’s third effort at the travel ban was much more detailed than his first two efforts, and it gave a very lengthy justification for why he picked those eight countries, so I think that allowed the court to say: ‘That’s good enough for us. We’re not going to second-guess the president’s decision.'”

However, CBS News' Jan Crawford cautioned on CBSN that it "would be a mistake to read this ruling as, Trump can say whatever he wants." The next case, the next issue -- perhaps Russia -- is a different case, and he could make remarks that could show insight into a different area of law.  

The court may have signaled its eventual approval in December, when the justices allowed the policy to take full effect even as the court fight continued and lower courts had ruled it out of bounds.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent that based on the evidence in the case "a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus." She said her colleagues arrived at the opposite result 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."

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan also dissented.

In a tweet from the ACLU, the advocacy group said "this is not the first time the Court has been wrong, or has allowed official racism and xenophobia to continue rather than standing up to it."

They added, "History has its eyes on us — and will judge today's decision harshly."

Ryan Mace of Amnesty International USA said in a statement following the ruling that the policy is "a catastrophe all around."

"Some of the people banned from this policy are fleeing conflicts that the United States has had a direct hand in creating or perpetuating, as is the case in Yemen and Syria. In those cases especially we are essentially lighting a house on fire and locking the escape door shut. This ban, and the anti-Muslim sentiment in which it originated, has no place in a country that claims to value human rights," Mace added.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) also expressed disappointment at the ruling, though he said the ban itself is less than what the president initially wanted to do _ which Booker said had amounted to a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Booker said Trump has ``tried multiple times'' to impose a religious test on entry to the country, ``and his efforts have been diluted by the court system.''

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the travel ban was “rooted in Islamophobia,” and said the ruling “encourages and contributes to a culture of profiling and religious discrimination."

Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell he believes the ruling effectively legalizes, or at least legitimizes, discrimination.

“When you start to deprive one religious group of its freedoms, then I think you should be concerned about how far and how wide that kind of oppression and that kind of discrimination is going to spread,” Shareef said.

Imam Shareef is with the Council of Imams in New Jersey. He feels the travel ban is un-American.

“This administration is threatening those very freedoms that the very founders had established for all people,” he said.

Imam Shareef believes there are plenty of security threats who are not Muslim.

But Rep. Peter King (R-New York) told WCBS 880 the Supreme Court did the right thing.

“The Supreme Court decision upholding the President’s order restricting travel from terrorist countries is a victory for common sense and America’s security,” he said.

Yale-Loehr said even though the Supreme Court has ruled that the travel ban holds up legally, an argument may still be made that it is a bad idea politically.

“We’ve already seen a drop in the number of tourists coming to the United States. We’ve seen a drop in the number of international students applying to colleges,” Yale-Loehr said, “and although this travel ban order does not directly affect those, this order today being upheld by the Supreme Court is another signal that America is no longer welcoming to immigrants, so in that respect, politically, we may be shooting ourselves in the foot.”

In April, Trump appeared likely to win his argument, when the case was heard by the high court in April. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy both signaled support for the travel policy in arguments. The ban's challengers almost certainly needed one of those two justices in order to strike down the ban on travelers from several mostly Muslim countries.

The justices voted in December to allow the policy to take full effect pending their full consideration.

The Trump administration asked the court to reverse lower court rulings that would strike down the ban.

The Supreme Court also considered whether the president can indefinitely keep people out of the country based on nationality, and it also looked at whether the policy is aimed at excluding Muslims from the United States. 

Kennedy challenged lawyer Neal Katyal, representing the challengers, about whether the ban would be unending. He said the policy's call for a report every six months "indicates there'll be a reassessment" from time to time.

The travel ban was the first Trump policy to undergo a full-blown Supreme Court review. The justices examined the third version of a policy that Trump first rolled out a week after taking office, triggering chaos and protests across the U.S. as travelers were stopped from boarding international flights and detained at airports for hours. The first version was blocked by courts and withdrawn. Its replacement was allowed to take partial effect, but expired in September.

The current version is indefinite and now applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries, blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. A sixth majority-Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list in April after improving "its identity-management and information sharing practices," Mr. Trump said in a proclamation.

The administration argued that courts have no role to play because the president has broad powers over immigration and national security, and foreigners have no right to enter the country.

The challengers argued that his policy amounts to the Muslim ban that Trump called for as a candidate, violating the Constitution's prohibition against religious bias.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)