The U.S. Supreme Court is known to save its most controversial decisions for last, and the Court did not disappoint. On June 27 Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion in two cases involving the Trump Administration’s travel ban. Although opponents are disappointed, neither side of the case received a clear victory.
Sudanese activist Tayeb Ibrahim, who had worked to expose Sudanese abuses in the volatile South Kordofan province and hopes to see family living in the U.S. state of Iowa, is hugged by his son Mohammed during an interview with The Associated Press in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Dozens of Sudanese activists living in Egypt as refugees, many of whom fled fundamentalist Islamic militias and were close to approval for resettlement in the United States, now face legal limbo in Egypt after the Supreme Court partially reinstated President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
In 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump promised his constituents a ban on non-citizen Muslims travelling to the United States. Within 24 hours of his inauguration, Executive Order 13769 was signed, suspending for 90 days the “entry of foreign nationals from seven countries identified as presenting heightened terrorism risks, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.” The order created chaos in airports around the U.S. lawyers and protesters filled the streets as members of those countries were detained and questioned. Many foreign nationals returned to their home countries.
Lawsuits alleged the Executive Orders violated the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the Constitution because the seven nations were majority Muslim. The Establishment clause forbids Congress from establishing a specific belief of religion and the Free Exercise clause prohibits the government from interfering with a person’s right to exercise their religion. The Executive Order allowed immigration from those nations by anyone practicing a non-Muslim religion, such as Christianity.
The first case against the Executive Order by Donald Trump was defeated in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Poorly argued by the Government, the Muslim ban was struck down.
Trump administration vowed to amend the Order and to appeal the decision of the Ninth Circuit. On March 6, a second Executive Order amended the list of nations to exclude Iraq, an American ally. This Order sought 90 days to establish “adequate standards to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists.” No information was given detailing how the country was threatened. This time a trial court in Hawaii found the ban violated the First Amendment.
The Obama Administration created a policy to allow 50,000 Syrians fleeing civil war to enter the U.S. as refugees. The refugees were already subject to a vetting process and had begun the process of immigration. The Executive Order suspended that program as “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The International Refugee Assistance Project sued Donald Trump arguing that the ban on refugees from Muslim-majority countries violated the Establishment clause. Under Federal law, the President has the power to stop immigration if there is a known threat. But, that threat cannot be based on religion alone.
The Supreme Court ruled that these Muslim-travel ban cases will have full arguments in October. However, until then, there is a partial ban on immigration from those nations that is applied to tourists and refugees from those six nations. The ban does not apply to visitors from those nations who have been invited to travel here. It does not apply to visitors who have family or relationships to people already residing in the United States. The Court stated that “a close familial relationship is required.” Students attending university, workers who have accepted a job offer or a “lecturer invited to address an American audience” may enter.
The government can ban certain refugees and tourists from those six nations. Visitors with a known relationship can enter. The fight moves to the Court’s next term, with both sides gathering their forces for a fierce legal battle.