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Quick Guide: the Supreme Court’s Travel Ban Decision

Last week, the Supreme Court made a decision allowing – in part – Trump’s travel ban. What does this mean?

       As you probably remember, multiple challenges to Trump’s travel ban were filed in district courts around the country. Two courts found the executive order unconstitutional and the government appealed those decisions. In the meantime – while the appeal courts heard the cases – the district courts granted a type of “injunction,” which is a legal order commanding someone to do or stop doing something.

       These injunctions basically said that the travel ban could not go into effect until the appeal courts ruled on the matter. The injunctions were granted because the district courts found that there was a higher risk of the travel ban being unconstitutional than of the government not being able to properly protect the national security of the United States. The appeal courts then also found the travel ban unconstitutional and upheld the previous injunctions while we waited for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.


What did the Supreme Court say?

      The Supreme Court’s decision from last week is not final. The Court will not rule on the merits of the case until October. In the meantime, however, the Court lifted some of the prior injunctions and allowed parts of the travel ban to go into effect. Basically, the Court said that the travel ban could apply to foreigners, except for those who had a “bona fide relationship” or a “close familial relationship” with a person in the United States. The Court did not specify what a “bona fide” relationship entails.

      Why did the Court make this temporary decision? The Supreme Court has constantly stated that the Executive branch has vast powers in national security issues. Thus, the Court might be more inclined to err on the side of allowing the Executive to have vast powers on national security and foreign affairs, at least until the case is fully heard and decided later this year. Perhaps the Court also felt that the lower courts had been too influenced by politics, instead of legal reasoning.

      We have to wait until October when the Supreme Court will hear the whole case. It is hard to think that the Supreme Court will actually allow the full travel ban to go into effect, considering President Trump’s continuous and persistent comments against Muslims. It is hard to imagine that the Court will ignore these statements made by Trump. The Court should take them into account because these racist comments show that a huge part of the motivation behind the travel ban was to discriminate against Muslims entering the United States – which violates the Establishment Clause, and thus is unconstitutional.

      Until October, however, we will need to live with parts of this xenophobic executive order. After last week’s decision, the Trump administration defined the “bona fide” requirement that the Supreme Court instated. Only immediate family members count. Hence, for example, if a foreigner from one of the targeted countries wants to come to the United States and that person has a grandparent living here, the Trump administration will not consider that enough of a “close familial relationship” to grant that person entrance to the United States.

      Let’s hope that, in October, the Supreme Court is able to tear down these unjustified walls.


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