Supreme Court upholds travel ban on its merits

U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy to ban travelers from five Muslim-majority countries is lawful after all, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently.

The 5-4 ruling comes after several lower courts had acted on their own to limit or suspend the policy, which Trump introduced in January 2017.

The original ban had repercussions reportedly for legitimate researchers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - stranding several in transit and preventing others from coming to the United States to work, study or attend scientific meetings.

The White House has since revised the policy. It now applies to travelers from five majority-Muslim nations - Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia - plus Venezuela and North Korea.

The travel restrictions now vary by country, and include some exemptions for students. But data from the Department of Justice reveal that the government issued just 289 visas to students from Iran, Libya, Yemen and Somalia in the first three months of this year, about 75 percent lower than in 2016.

The high court’s ruling came on a challenge to the third version of the travel ban, which Trump issued in September of 2017.

The lawsuit was filed by the University of Hawaii, along with individuals and a Muslim-advocacy group; they contended that the policy amounted to discrimination based on religion. 

Several universities and higher-education groups have been vocal in opposing the travel ban in all its versions, arguing that the policy would create an unwelcoming environment for international scholars.

But a majority of Supreme Court justices rejected the idea that the ban was premised on religious discrimination.

Instead, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the policy is justified on national-security grounds. He noted that the Trump administration had amended the original ban to include North Korea and Venezuela - countries without significant Muslim populations - and had allowed people from Iraq and Sudan to enter the United States after their home countries changed certain security-screening procedures.

But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that the ban “was driven primarily by anti-Muslim animus,” citing several statements by Trump before he was elected president - including his oft-repeated campaign promise to bar Muslims from entering the United States.

Some opponents of the travel ban say that while the travel ban itself may not have enormous implications for science, it is indicative of the Trump administration’s approach to foreign policy.

“A lot of foreigners are concluding that the United States is no longer interested in people who were not born here,’’ said Russell Harrison, a senior legislative representative based in Washington, D.C. “And that is a big problem.”

The high court’s ruling makes it clear that our country has the right to investigate and sometimes restrict people from foreign countries from entering our country if they could possibly pose a national security risk.

The split vote on the issue is also a clear indication that the court took into account some of the tough campaign rhetoric that Trump used in his bid to get elected. Ultimately, however, the court felt compelled to approve the travel ban on its merit alone.

The ruling also may be an indication that the country is stepping back a little with regard to some of the politically correct policies that in recent years have compromised our national security.

While President Trump continues to often be his own worst enemy due to his constant off the cuff remarks, this Supreme Court ruling is definitely a signal to lower court judges to refrain from citing their own personal, political agendas in their court rulings.   

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