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Travel ban decision sets a dangerous precedent for America

When the travel ban was first implemented, protesters flooded airports across the U.S. Photo by Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban, which forbids travel to the U.S. for the 150 million citizens of five Muslim-majority countries — Syria, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — as well as North Korea, with very limited exceptions.

The 5–4 decision in Trump v. Hawaii rests on a broad definition of executive authority. Even in the face of extensive evidence of the President’s anti-Muslim animus, the majority found, the ban must be upheld if it can be reasonably linked to “a justification independent of unconstitutional grounds.”

Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, the few policies the Court has struck down in the past were found to be “divorced from any factual context… [showing] a relationship to legitimate state interests.”

“Today’s decision is deeply troubling and sets a dangerous precedent,” said Eva A. Millona, executive director of MIRA. “What the Supreme Court said, in essence, is that no matter how obvious the President’s racist and anti-Muslim motivations may be, if he can wrap the travel ban in the pretext of national security, it must stand.”

“Religious freedom is a founding principle of our nation, and a ban that started with the campaign promise of a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ is still an act of bigotry no matter how it’s repackaged. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in her powerful dissent, today’s decision ignores the facts, misconstrues legal precedent, and turns a blind eye to the pain and suffering caused by the travel ban.

“The Supreme Court has abdicated its responsibility to uphold American values, defend the Constitution, and reject racial and religious discrimination. We will continue to fight for the diverse, inclusive, welcoming America that we believe in, and will stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers until they get the justice they deserve.”

Notably, the Supreme Court decision points to a waiver program available to people from affected countries as evidence that the travel ban is legitimate on national security grounds. However, as reported by the Washington Post, only a small fraction of waiver requests are granted, and they don’t always lead to an actual visa. A former consular official wrote in Slate that based on his experience with it, the waiver process is “window dressing to mask the true intent of Trump’s Muslim ban.”