The U.S. Supreme Court does follow the election returns, and a slender majority of justices on Tuesday refused to limit the national security powers of President Donald Trump. The court’s deferral to presidential authority in this case doesn’t mean the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies and divisive rhetoric are justified or in our national interest. Not when he consistently conveys to the world his disregard for the promise of our nation and its constitution.
A week after his inauguration, Trump suspended the United States’ refugee admission program and stopped all immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations, citing national security reasons. He moved so fast that agencies overseeing immigration and airports had no time to react, and chaos ensued. That led to more than 700 travelers detained, more than 60,000 visas revoked.
That amateurish and openly bigoted attempt at a policy change, coming on the heels of a campaign in which Trump repeatedly promised to stop all immigration by Muslims, lasted a week before public outrage and a restraining order from a federal court stopped it. A second, similar executive order two months later was again met with a public outcry, and a judge blocked most of it the day before it went into effect.
Trump’s third iteration, upheld in a 5-4 vote Tuesday, was substantially different. It included two non-Muslim countries, North Korea and Venezuela, along with Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. All of these were nations the administration said either sponsored terrorism or did not have adequate measures in place to screen those seeking visas to travel to the United States.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged the dangerous nature of Trump’s rhetoric on Muslim nations, but determined Trump used the broad powers Congress gave the president to suspend the entry of aliens for national security reasons. Trump cited the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and because the nations on Trump’s list were previously determined by Congress and prior presidents as posing national security risks, five justices rejected the argument that the policy was motivated by religious bias.
Public opinion was a main ingredient in beating down the first two versions of Trump’s travel ban, before he modified it to survive. The same pattern of a hastily designed crackdown on immigration unfolded in recent weeks on our southern border. Once again, fury forced Trump to stop separating children from their parents; the legal fight in the courts will follow.
Both Roberts’ decision and Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s furious dissent cited the Supreme Court’s 1944 Korematsu decision that allowed the government to hold Japanese-Americans in internment camps. Many have compared the refugees our nation is now turning away to the Jews who were not allowed into the United States during the Holocaust. It’s not entirely crazy to fear history will judge our current immigration stance as harshly as it has those decisions.
But for the nation to find its way to better policies, the people have to act. New York held its federal primaries Tuesday. The midterm elections will soon be here. That’s where we can best end the demonization of religion and ethnicity and restore our nation’s values. — The editorial board