In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to uphold President Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority nations. Even Trump seemed surprised by the announcement, tweeting an exclamatory “Wow!” (see here). Sticking to Trump’s campaign promises, the ban restricts nationals from five Muslim-majority countries from entering into the United States. The third of its kind, the Trump administration had made major alterations to the policy after lower courts invalidated two previous attempts. The saying, “third time’s a charm” couldn’t be stated at a more accurate time.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ban, there was tremendous backlash from politicians and the general public alike. A majority of the opposition traces its roots to hues of discrimination against Islam - a seemingly direct violation of the First Amendment. The state of Hawaii was one of the main voices of opposition to Trump’s policy, stating that the ban exceeded the President’s authority stated in the Constitution and under immigration laws. Others argue that statements the President has previously made regarding Muslims, terrorists, and Islam reveals a personal prejudice Trump has towards the religion and an attempt to eradicate it through the travel ban. With the still fresh backlash against the court’s firm stance with the First Amendment from the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the court was quick to jump on these claims and address them head on. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, stating that the ban was "squarely within the scope of Presidential authority under the INA," and that “an anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented claiming, "It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a 'total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States' because the policy now masquerades behind a facade of national-security concerns." Though respectfully Ms. Sotomayor is advocating for the Islam religion and those seeking refuge from a place many couldn’t imagine, she is overlooking the greater good that she was sworn in to protect. Without these restrictions, the possibility of our society being threatened on domestic soil would grow with each passing day.
The travel ban remains constitutional whether or not politicians agree. To say that the travel ban is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment’s assurance of religious freedom would mean that it should ban all religions seeking to take root in the United States, not just Islam. The First Amendment does not discriminate against certain religions, though many are staking their reputations on trying to paint that picture. If this were the case, how would we select which religion is permitted and which is restricted? The Islamic religion has believers that are some of society’s most beneficial and reputable citizens. Our society probably wouldn’t function as efficiently without its great Muslim leaders. Unfortunately Islam doesget a bad reputation because of certain radical believers, and the banned countries are known hotbeds for radicalism. America is composed of diverse people groups that claim just as many diverse religious practices. The Supreme Court’s ruling of 5-4 is not a question of allowing or disallowing Muslims into the United States; it is a question of national security.
This article was written by Megan Gambrill. Megan is one of Reid Law's 2018 summer interns and a student at Auburn University.