News

Muslim Ban

Supreme Court upholds travel restrictions

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In a 5-4 ruling on Tuesday that further demonstrated the powerful impact of the “stolen Supreme Court seat,” the newest Justice Neil Gorsuch joined fellow conservatives on the nation’s highest court in voting to uphold President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.

“The government has set forth a sufficient national security justification to survive rational basis review,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s five conservatives. The decision affirms the vast and largely unchecked power of the executive branch over foreign policy and national security issues.

The ban upheld by the Supreme Court restricts travel from Syria, Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea. The latter two nations were not included in earlier iterations of the ban.

In a scathing dissent, four justices disagreed with the ban, observing “a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.”

“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,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the dissenting opinion.

Elected representatives in Washington state, which took a strong supporting role in shooting down two previous attempts at a travel ban by the Trump administration, had sharp words for the decision, which could heavily shape future policy involving the admission of refugees seeking sanctuary from around the world.

“Our country has long stood as a symbol of hope and security for people around the world fleeing persecution and violence, and turning our backs on our global neighbors during one of the worst refugee crises in recent history flies in the face of who we are as a nation,” Sen. Parry Murray said in a statement.

“Time and again President Trump has doubled down on his divisive rhetoric about refugees with policies that undermine critical humanitarian efforts and ignore the United States’ role as a world leader,” the Democrat said.

“It is abhorrent that, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the president’s Muslim ban, apparently turning a blind eye to the president’s own words and our country’s constitutional protections against discrimination,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “The president has made it clear that his Muslim ban and refugee policies were never intended to be about national security, but instead discrimination against certain people for their cultures and religious beliefs.   

“Today’s decision will hurt families and individuals and goes against our nation’s history and constitutional protections against discrimination. It also reinforces anti-Muslim animus,” Inslee predicted.

In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor argued that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority decided to leave “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.”

“This repackaging does little to cleanse Presidential Proclamation No. 9645 of the appearance of discrimination that the president’s words have created,” Sotomayor wrote.

“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,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said in a statement. “History has its eyes on us— and will judge today’s decision harshly.”

Washington has been an active opponent of all versions of the president’s travel ban, the first state in the country to file for a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of the current iteration in February of last year. The states of California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon joined Washington as plaintiffs to halt the implementation of the order pending review by the high court.

President Trump issued his original travel ban in January of 2017.

Washington was the first state to file a legal challenge of the initial order, which resulted in Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington halting the travel ban nationwide. After a unanimous decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upholding Judge Robart’s ruling, the Trump Administration declined to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Trump Administration paid Washington state’s costs of responding to the appeal, and Trump rescinded the ban.

Trump then issued a second, narrower travel ban. Hawaii responded, but Washington was not a party to that litigation as it moved through federal court. The second travel ban expired and was replaced by his third travel ban.

While the Supreme Court had previously scheduled oral arguments to hear challenges to the second travel ban, it canceled those arguments following the President’s issuance of the third travel ban. Analysts noted the addition of two non-Muslim countries to the president’s order were likely intended to disguise and blunt the hardest edges of a ban targeting (unconstitutionally) a specific religious and ethnic group, allowing it to survive judicial scrutiny by the high court.

Jamal Abdi, vice president of policy at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling as a “travesty” and vowed to mobilize in opposition.

“The effort to end the Muslim ban is far from over,” Abdi said. “We will do everything in our power to organize our community and collaborate with other communities to ensure that Trump’s shameful policy is repealed by Congress.”

“The Court has used ‘national security’ to affirm policies like the internment of Japanese Americans, as in the Korematsu case, a shameful error in judgment that catered to the popular bigotry of the day and hurt so many people under a facade of national security,” Inslee said of an analogous World War II-era decision that limited the freedom and movement of a targeted group. “I look out my window on Bainbridge Island every day and see reminders of where many local families were marched into internment camps.

“While in today’s ruling the Court expressly overruled Korematsu, this decision violates the spirit of that reversal and replaces one profoundly bad decision with another,” Inslee observed.

“I remain more committed than ever in ensuring that Washington state remains a place where all people are welcomed, honored and accepted,” he said.

Earlier this year the governor signed a new state law that prevents disclosing religious affiliation to the federal government. The law puts new restrictions on information about a person’s religious affiliation that can be shared by employers, state government officials and law enforcement.

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