On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided on the case of Trump v. Hawaii, which challenged the third iteration of Trump’s controversial travel ban – also known as the “Muslim ban.” It was called out by civil rights campaigners for targeting predominantly-Muslim countries, including Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In fact, of the eight countries Trump targeted for the ban, five of them were Muslim-majority countries.
The argument against the travel ban was two-pronged.
First, that Trump had no executive authority to issue the order to put the ban into place; and two, that Trump’s anti-Muslim statements meant that the banning citizens from Muslim countries had less to do with “protecting national security” as the government claimed, and was instead primarily focused on preventing Muslim immigration into the US.
The Court determined that the ban fell within Trump’s executive authority and that his anti-Muslim statements and actions had no bearing on the case.
“The [order] is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices…The text says nothing about religion,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, which was cosigned by the Court’s more conservative justices.
[bctt tweet=”The Court claims the travel ban has nothing to do with religion, but we can see right past that.” username=”wearethetempest”]
In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, slammed the majority’s argument. She cites several instances during President Trump’s election campaign where he made anti-Muslim statements and referenced anti-Muslim videos. Trump’s biases are so severe, she argued, that they shouldn’t be overlooked in determining his true motives for the ban.
“The majority here completely sets aside the President’s charged statements against Muslims as irrelevant. That holding erodes the fundamental principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of our political community,'” Sotomayor charged.
Although it’s too soon to completely tell what the Court’s ruling will mean in the long-term, Trump’s travel ban has technically been in effect since December, which means there is some evidence of its effect on immigration patterns.
Although the travel ban has different restrictions for each country on the list, all citizens who are still eligible to apply for visas to come to the USA from their home countries will be required to undergo a more extended and thorough vetting process. Unsurprisingly, the number of visas that have actually been issued to applicants have been significantly reduced since the introduction of the ban. Only two of the roughly 16,500 visa candidates who fit the travel ban’s vetting requirements were admitted in the month following the ban, and the number of asylum seekers and refugees from the countries affected by the ban has been admitted in 2018.
[bctt tweet=”Unsurprisingly, the number of visas that have actually been issued to applicants have been significantly reduced since the introduction of the ban.” username=”wearethetempest”]
The lack of ability to travel into the United States is more than likely going to have an impact on the capability of students from affected countries to come to the US to study, even if they’ve already received a student visa in the past. Some universities have even recommended that their students from impacted areas seriously consider if they need to go home, especially if the students are from Syria. No visas for any purpose will be granted to Syrians, and so students who are in the States from Syria would definitely be denied a return to the US if they went back home for any purpose.
[bctt tweet=”Some universities have even recommended that their students from impacted areas seriously consider if they need to go home” username=”wearethetempest”]
Women’s advocacy groups in the Middle East have also noted that the travel ban will impact the ability of organizations to meet with human rights organizations based in the United States. For example, the Global Fund for Women noted several instances of women’s groups having difficulties gaining the visas that the needed to attend meetings for the United Nations, which means that the GFW has been unable to best advocate for the women it serves.
Even though the ban has only been in place for six months, it has already damaged the ability of students, refugees and women’s groups to access aid they need from the United States. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban has solidified this dangerous policy.