President Trump’s controversial travel ban moved a step closer after finally being cleared to take full effect by the Supreme Court on Monday (4th December).
The proposal, restricting nationals from the majority-Muslim countries Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from entering the USA, was passed at the third attempt after finding favour with seven of nine justices. Previous directives had been dismissed in January and March.
The bill will now take effect, pending legal challenges about the bill’s lawfulness which will begin this week in federal appeal courts in San Francisco, California and Richmond, Virginia, before the Supreme Court delivers its final ruling.
“The white house is not surprised by the decision, limiting travel from countries presenting heightened risks of terrorism” – Hogan Gidley, White house spokesperson
But the Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial body, ruling in favour of the government has shifted the balance towards the bill ultimately passing, according to legal expert David Levine.
“I think it is tipping the hand of the Supreme Court”, said the University of California Hastings law professor.
“It suggests that from their understanding, the government is more likely to prevail on the merits than we might have thought.”
And the news of the Supreme Court ruling was welcomed in the White House.
“[The White House] is not surprised by the decision permitting immediate enforcement of the President’s proclamation limiting travel from countries presenting heightened risks of terrorism”, commented spokesperson Hogan Gidley.
Legal challenges had been presented in Hawaii and Maryland which claimed the legislation violated federal immigration law, although no legal challenge was presented against the newly updated ban on travellers from North Korea, as well as certain Venezuelan government officials.
“President trump’s anti-muslim prejudice is no secret” – omar jadwat, American civil liberties union
And this aspect of the appeal gave further fuel to the criticism that the ban was anti-Muslim.
“President Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret”, claimed American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project director Omar Jadwat.
“He has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter [when the personal account of President Trump retweeted perceived anti-Muslim videos from the far-right group Britain First].
“It is unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now”, added Jadwat.
It was the largely anti-Muslim perception of the law which had seen the first two incarnations of the bill fail, with opponents and federal courts regarding the travel ban as a violation on the United States’ constitutional guarantee on religious freedom.
But now, with heightened fears around the North Korean nuclear project, it appears that the addition of a ban on nationals from non Muslim-majority countries North Korea and Venezuela has tipped the balance in favour of the Trump administration, with the bill declared a “substantial victory for the safety and security of the American people” by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The appeals process is expected to be given accelerated attention in the federal courts, allowing the Supreme Court to reach a definitive decision in this term, before the end of June.
–Alistair Sargent, Editor