MS Risk Blog

Trump Travel Ban Partially Lifted

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On Monday 26 June, US President Donald Trump welcomed a Supreme Court ruling that effectively allows his travel ban to be partly reinstated as a “victory for our national security.” America’s highest court also granted a White House request allowing part of its refugee ban to go into effect, with the justices indicating that they would consider in October whether the president’s policy should be upheld or struck down.

President Trump is seeking to put in place a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on refugees. The president on Monday welcomed the ruling’s qualified authorisation to bar visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, which he described as “terror-prone countries.” He has stated that the ban would take effect within 72 hours of court approval.

In its decision on Monday, the Supreme Court stated that “in practical terms, this means that (the executive order) may not b enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” adding “all other foreign nationals are subject to the provisions of (the executive order).” The ruling further stated that it would permit a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the US to go into effect, effectively allowing the US government to bar entry to refuge claimants who do not have any “bona fide relationship” with an American individual or entity. The ruling clarifies that those who would be deemed to have such a relationship would include a foreign national who wishes to enter the US to live with or visit a family member, a student at an American university, an employee of a US company, or a lecturer invited to address an American audience. It notes that this would not apply to “someone who enters into a relationship simply to avoid (the executive order)…For example, a non-profit group devoted to immigration issues may not contact foreign nationals from the designated countries, add them to client lists, and then secure their entry by claiming injury from their exclusion.”

There were several divisions in the court, with three of the court’s conservative justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – wrote that they would have allowed the travel ban to go into full effect. Justice Thomas noted that the government’s interest in preserving national security outweighs any hardship to people denied entry into the country. President Trump restored a 5 – 4 conservative majority to the Supreme Court when his nominee, Justice Gorsuch, joined its bench in April. There are five Republican appointees on th court and four Democratic Appointees.

President Trump has insisted that the ban is necessary for national security amidst a number of terrorist attacks that have occurred in Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin and other cities. Critics however have called the policy un-American and Islamophobic, with US lower courts broadly seeming to agree with this view. The president’s policy was left in limbo after it was struck down by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland just days following its issuance on 6 March. In May, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia disclosed that the ban was “rooted in religious animus” towards Muslims, while the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated earlier this month that “national security is not a ‘talismanic incantation’ that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power.”

The original ban, which was released on 27 January, provoked mass protests at airports in the US. The initial ban included Iraq amongst countries whose travellers would be barred from the US. It also imposed a full ban on refugees from Syria. On 6 March, President Trump issued a revised version with a narrower scope to overcome some of the legal problems, however he seemed unhappy about having to do so, calling it a “watered down, politically correct” version of the first ban.