The United States Supreme Court has upheld President Donald Trump‘s controversial order blocking entry by people from several Muslim-majority countries, a decision described as “disappointing” and “worrying” by advocacy groups.
In a 5-4 decision on Tuesday, the high court found that Trump’s action was “squarely within the scope of presidential authority” under US immigration law and rejected a challenge that it discriminated against Muslims or exceeded his authority.
A sixth majority Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list in April after improving “its identity-management and information sharing practices,” Trump said in a proclamation.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by his four conservative colleagues.
He rejected the challengers’ claim of anti-Muslim bias, but 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.
Following the Supreme Court’s announcement, Trump hailed the decision as “a moment of profound vindication” following “months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country”.
SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2018
Motivated by ‘anti-Muslim animus’
Lower courts had previously blocked the travel ban, the third version of a policy Trump first pursued a week after taking office in January 2017. But on December 4, the high court allowed it to go fully into effect while the legal challenge continued.
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”.
Sotomayor likened the case to the discredited Korematsu V. US decision that upheld the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The challengers, led by the state of Hawaii, argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity towards Muslims.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the challengers had failed to show that the ban violates either US immigration law or the Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on the government favouring one religion over another.
The White House maintains the ban targets individuals from countries that have failed to provide enough information to allow for proper vetting of prospective travellers. Trump also says it is needed on matters of national security.
When the first version of the ban was announced shortly after Trump took office, protests erupted nationwide, with many taking to airports and the streets to denounce the move as “unconstitutional”.
Human rights activists said the court’s decision represented “a dreadful day for our country”.
In 1944, the Supreme Court allowed the US government to imprison Japanese Americans solely because of their national origin and ethnicity, based on empty claims of national security.
It’s one of the most shameful chapters of US history, and today’s decision now joins it.
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 26, 2018
This is a dreadful day for our country. Supreme Court upholds the president's Muslim ban, refusing to consider what the president has consistently proclaimed about his purpose. But we Americans will fight on to express the will of the people to uphold equality and freedom.
— Cecillia Wang 王德棻 (@WangCecillia) June 26, 2018
SCOTUS ruling reminds us: The true war against religious freedom in this country is, and has always been, discrimination against minority religious groups. What is generally discussed in D.C. as "religious freedom" is Christian supremacy in disguise. #NoMuslimBanEver
— Serene Jones (@SereneJones) June 26, 2018
To generalize and discriminate against an entire group based on the actions of few makes zero sense. Men commit about 90% of violent crimes but there’s no one saying we should try and keep them out of our country. #NoMuslimBanEver
— BLACK LIVES MATTER (@naomiunfiltered) June 26, 2018
“Slavery was legal. Segregation was legal. Internment of Japanese was legal. Just because the #SCOTUS decides something is legal doesn’t make it right or moral.” #NoMuslimBanEver #StandWithMuslims pic.twitter.com/eUg6NrFhzu
— MPower Change (@MPower_Change) June 26, 2018
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American- Islamic Relations described the court’s decision as “disappointing”.
“The Supreme Court decision today has given the Trump administration a free hand to reinject discrimination against a particular faith back to our immigration system which was rejected more than 50 years ago.
“The Supreme Court’s decision ignored the fact that this president and candidate has targeted a particular faith community which is Muslims, here and abroad.”
Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth, said in a statement that the association was appalled with the court’s decision to uphold the ban.
“This Administration continues to invoke policies that propagate hate, embolden bigots, and incite violence. We should be ashamed of where this Administration has led us – and we’re ashamed that our highest court has accepted the Administration’s harmful rhetoric and actions to persecute some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We are a nation of immigrants – and no twisted legal justification can change that,” Hauser said.
“While Trump continues to manufacture policies that profile individuals and attack immigrants, young people will instead center our communities and be the moral compass and humanity this country so desperately needs, when it feels like our institutions are blatantly not.
Muslim advocates said they a also concerned that the administration will target other countries as well as American citizens and lawful, permanent US residents of a Muslim background.
— Dr. Omar Suleiman (@omarsuleiman504) June 26, 2018
#SCOTUS failed us today. They decided on the side of xenophobia and racism. This is a devastating decision for Muslim and Refugee communities. More families separated by a white supremacist agenda. #NoMuslimBanEver #StandWithMuslims
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) June 26, 2018
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress said the decision “will someday serve as a marker of shame”, comparing the ban and ruling to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
SCOTUS upholding Muslim/Travel ban is reminiscent of Taney Court’s Dred Scott decision, in which an partisan court reached a discriminatory holding to support a futile attempt at suppressing human dignity. The dustbin of history awaits this one too. https://t.co/FVSYJbbFVw
— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) June 26, 2018
Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reporting from New York said that the court’s ruling is a “major victory” for Trump.
She said that the Trump administration added some countries that were not Muslim majority to the list arguing that this was for national security and not based on religion
“With those changes the Supreme Court is basically saying that this is within the president’s authority to do this.”