Third time’s the charm. Today, the Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of President Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting people from several majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States—the so-called “travel ban.” In a 5-4 opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court found that the executive order did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The Chief Justice framed the issue by saying that its review of the president’s actions on issues of national security is highly deferential. “Any rule of constitutional law that would inhibit the flexibility of the President to respond to changing world conditions should be adopted only with the greatest caution, and our inquiry into matters of entry and national security is highly constrained.” The Court pointed out that the executive order says nothing about religion, that it covers only 8% of the world’s Muslim population, that it contains various exceptions, and that it was the product of a national-security review by the Cabinet. In light of those facts and applying its deferential standard of review, the Court upheld the executive order.
Challengers had said that the president’s statements on the campaign trail and and his statements and actions once in office were evidence of animus against Muslims and an intent to treat Muslims differently, even though the executive order says nothing about religion. The Court acknowledged the president’s statements, but said that those were not enough to overcome the deferential standard the Court affords the executive branch. “The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements. It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility.”
Case: Trump v. Hawaii, No. 17-965 (U.S. June 26, 2018) (opinion here)