Trump ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries partly reinstated
Supreme Court ruling offers protection to those ‘with a credible claim’ of relationship with person in US
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Trump administration may enforce its 90-day ban on travellers from six mostly Muslim countries. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.
The US Supreme Court has upheld parts of US president Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban in a significant boost for the president, though it will not hear the full appeal until October.
In a move that will be welcomed by the White House, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a limited version of Mr Trump’s immigration ban can come into effect, though it “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
The six countries included in the travel ban are Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.
The move effectively removes the stay on aspects of the ban that was introduced following judgments by several lower courts over the past few months.
Most recently the fourth circuit court of appeal in Virginia upheld a ruling in Maryland that the revised proposed 90-day ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries violated the principle of religious freedom enshrined in the constitution. It followed a similar judgment by a federal district court in Hawaii.
Several courts used the president’s previous comments against Muslims during his presidential campaign as part of their reasoning.
The decision by the Supreme Court to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of the federal court rulings in the autumn sets up a major constitutional challenge for the nine-member court who will have to decide about the constitutionality of the US president’s power over immigration and national security matters.
Some immigration lawyers said the limited nature of the ban and the silence of the court’s liberals on the issue on Monday suggested that the court had not handed Mr Trump much of a victory. They said relatively few people would fall under the ban because people coming to study, work or visit family members in the United States already have sufficient relationships with others already in the country.
‘Clear victory for our national security’
Mr Trump, though, hailed the court’s order as a “clear victory for our national security”. He said in a statement that his “number one responsibility” is to keep the American people safe. The court’s opinion explained the kinds of relationships people from the six countries must demonstrate to obtain a US visa. “For individuals, a close familial relationship is required,” the court said. For people who want to come to the United States to work or study, “the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, not for the purpose of evading” the travel ban.
Mr Trump and his lawyers have consistently argued that it is the right of the US president to take measures that are deemed to be in the interest of national security.
Mr Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries within his first week in office, a move that caused chaos at airports across the country and prompted multiple law suits.
After a stay was placed on the order, Mr Trump presented a revised order in March which excluded Iraq from the list of countries covered by the ban and omitted a section that appeared to target Syrian refugees.
The Supreme Court decision, announced on the court’s last day of term, could open up a legal minefield as lawyers try to prove an immigrant’s claims of a ‘bona fide relationship’ with a person in the United States.
Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision to begin hearing the full appeal case in October, Omar Jadwat of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said: “President Trump’s Muslim ban violates the fundamental constitutional principle that government cannot favour or disfavour any one religion. Courts have repeatedly blocked this indefensible and discriminatory ban. The Supreme Court now has a chance to permanently strike it down.”
A 120-day ban on refugees is also being allowed to take effect on a limited basis.
Three of the court’s conservative justices said they would have let the complete bans take effect.
There are five Republican appointees on the court and four Democratic appointees.
Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said the government has shown it is likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and that it will suffer irreparable harm with any interference.
Mr Thomas said the government’s interest in preserving national security outweighs any hardship to people denied entry into the country.
Additional reporting AP and Reuters