The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to accept a case to decide whether President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban unconstitutionally discriminates against Muslims.
On Jan. 19 the high court asked lawyers on both sides to address whether the president’s third executive order banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries violates the First Amendment ban on establishing religion.
The state of Hawaii claims that adding North Korea and Venezuela to the list of banned countries does not alter the fact that the policy’s intent is to prevent Muslims from entering the country.
“Indeed, one might be forgiven for assuming that these countries were added primarily to improve the government’s ‘litigating position,’ rather than to achieve any legitimate substantive goal,” observes Hawaii’s opposition brief.
The White House claims the president has constitutional and statutory power to restrict the entry of aliens into the United States in the interest of national security. A Sept. 24 presidential order places restrictions on certain foreign nationals from eight countries — Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia and Yemen — judged by the administration to pose a “heightened risk.”
Two earlier versions of the ban were struck down by courts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in December the current ban “exceeds the scope” of the president’s “delegated authority.”
Court observers expect the case to be argued in March or April, with a decision likely to follow in June.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said the Supreme Court should reinstate lower-court injunctions in two states preventing the ban from taking effect.
“The illegal bigotry that animates Muslim Ban 3.0 should be as clear to the Supreme Court as it is to the Muslims it stigmatizes,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri.
“If the First Amendment means anything at all, it means that the president of the United States cannot wield the federal government’s powers in a way calculated to disfavor Muslims and demonize Islam,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “The Supreme Court — along with the rest of us — must do everything possible to oppose Muslim Ban 3.0.”