In upholding parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed for now that a president has the authority to set immigration policy aimed at protecting national security. But the court also tempered the travel ban in smart ways that are sure to make Trump’s approach less onerous.
Trump can go ahead with his plan to bar entry to those from six Muslim-majority countries that the administration deems a terrorism risk, under Monday’s ruling.
But the court excluded from the ban individuals who have a “bona fide” relationship with families or institutions in the U.S.
The exemption applies to those who have close relatives in America; students who have been accepted for study at U.S. universities, and employees of U.S. businesses.
The justices ruled the Trump ban as proposed is an unconstitutional burden on families, universities and companies with credible ties to individuals from the targeted countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
But individuals without such ties have no constitutional protections, and thus no standing to challenge the ban, the court ruled.
It’s a split decision that serves both the administration and immigrants well.
The court ruled, “The interest in preserving national security is an urgent objective of the highest order.” It is the president’s responsibility to meet that objective.
Trump will now have to deliver on his “extreme vetting” promise; sorting through which immigrants have credible ties to the United States. It is a monumental task that will require a great deal of scrutiny.
The subjectivity of the decision-making, as Justice Clarence Thomas warned, could produce a “flood of litigation” and “make the court’s remedy unworkable.”
But the court will take up the matter in greater detail in October, and by then the impact of the ban and whether it can be effectively implemented will be clearer.
In the meantime, those immigrants with a legitimate claim to entering the United States will have a surer route.
The Supreme Court upheld an important concept: presidential powers are not situational or based on a president’s popularity.
The travel ban was ill-conceived and implemented in a ham-handed manner.
But as president, Donald Trump still has the right to put in place immigration policies in the name of national security, as long as he doesn’t unfairly burden those with a right and a reason to be here.