The U.S. Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote Tuesday upheld the third version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban restricting entry from five predominantly Muslim countries.
The high court overturned a decision in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco blocked part of the ban last year. The case began in a lawsuit filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii, and the association’s imam.
Trump issued the order by proclamation in September after two previous versions of the ban were struck down by federal trial judges and appeals courts.
In its current version, the restriction applies to most visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion:
“The proclamation is squarely within the scope of presidential authority under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.”
The majority also rejected a claim that the ban should be struck down because it allegedly was motivated by religious discrimination, as illustrated by anti-Muslim comments by Trump.
Roberts said the text of the proclamation says nothing about religion and there was “persuasive evidence” that the ban had a “legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility.”
The court was therefore obliged to accept the national security justification, he said.
“The proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in a dissent that the ban “now masquerades behind a facade of national-security concerns,” but said “this repackaging does little to cleanse” the proclamation of the appearance of discrimination created by the president’s words.
Sotomayor wrote that the majority decision “leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.'”
“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.”
President Trump issued a statement saying:
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a tremendous victory for the American people and the Constitution … The Supreme Court has upheld the clear authority of the president to defend the national security of the United States. In this era of worldwide terrorism and extremist movements bent on harming innocent civilians, we must properly vet those coming into our country.”
An array of California officials and Bay Area Muslim groups and civil rights organizations denounced the ruling.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of California in support of Hawaii, said:
“The Supreme Court got this one wrong … One day, this nation and court will look back and regret this ruling that legalized discrimination.”
The state contended in its brief that the ban will harm California universities because of the number of students from the targeted countries, and will also hurt California industries.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said:
“The Supreme Court’s dangerous ruling undermines our values, our security and our Constitution … No matter how many times the president rewrites his un-American Muslim ban, it won’t change the fact that this historic injustice is immoral and dangerous.”
At a news conference this morning in front of San Francisco City Hall, attorney Ammad Raffiqi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said:
“This decision is a travesty of justice … The Supreme Court had an opportunity to remind us all that regardless of where we come from, that all are worthy of equality.”
Raffiqi is the civil rights and legal services coordinator of CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area branch, headquartered in Santa Clara.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice issued a statement saying:
“We strongly condemn the Supreme Court’s decision and perpetuation of state-sanctioned discrimination as inconsistent with our Constitutional values … This decision greenlights religious and ethnic discrimination that runs counter to the inclusionary principles to which our country aspires.”
The group is a coalition of five affiliates, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.
Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the Oakland-based California Immigrant Policy Center, called the ban “a profoundly Islamophobic and xenophobic policy that demonizes families, communities, and whole nationalities.”