World

U.S. Supreme Court rules in Trump's favour on travel ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency, upholding his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries, a ruling that rights group condemn as 'government-led discrimination.'

Faith leaders, rights groups condemn the decision, calling it 'government-led discrimination'

U.S. President Donald Trump is shown at a Monday night rally in South Carolina. Trump tweeted his approval within minutes of Tuesday's Supreme Court decision announcement. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The U.S. Supreme Court handed Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency on Tuesday, upholding his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries.

The 5-4 ruling, with the court's five conservatives in the majority and Chief Justice John Roberts writing the decision, ends for now a fierce fight in the courts over whether the policy represented an unlawful Muslim ban.

Trump can now claim vindication after lower courts had blocked his travel ban announced in September, as well as two prior versions, in legal challenges brought by the state of Hawaii and others.

The president quickly reacted on Twitter: "SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!"

The White House followed up with a statement from Trump touting the decision as a "tremendous victory for the American people and the Constitution."

"This ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country," the statement added.

Writing for the court, Roberts said that the government "has set forth a sufficient national security justification" to prevail.

"We express no view on the soundness of the policy," Roberts added.

Immigration rights proponents demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Tuesday. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent that based on the evidence in the case, "a reasonable observer would conclude that the proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus."

She said her colleagues arrived at the opposite result by "ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens."

Faith leaders denounce ruling

The pastor of the church that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once led has condemned the decision.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta said the ban was about imposing a "religious test" on those entering the United States.

He said, "The Supreme Court's decision today was not only an injustice committed against our Muslim sisters and brothers, it's a threat to justice everywhere."

Warnock stood with faith leaders from Atlanta's other religious communities in front of the church to denounce the ruling.

"They've made bad decisions time and time again," he said, "and it's the American people who have had to stand up to remind our elected officials — and even those on the judiciary — who we are."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said the travel ban was not about national security, but religious discrimination against Muslims.

In a statement, Jackson said the ruling ignored Trump's tweets, statements and speeches in upholding the executive order.

Later in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Jackson called Trump an extremist and a white nationalist, and said that "this is a religious doctrine."

Trump calls the upholding of his travel ban 'a tremendous victory for the American people and for our constitution' 1:45

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Trump criticized his country's immigration system. "We inherited a lot of different things, but of all of them, immigration makes the least sense. It's a hodgepodge of laws that have been put together over the years and we have to change it. It's so simple. It's called, 'I'm sorry, you can't come in.'"

Campaign trail comments

Critics of the ban cited Trump's inflammatory comments during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump as a candidate called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" in the wake of a deadly attack in San Bernardino, Calif.

His lawyers said that only Trump's actions since he became president in January 2017 should be relevant to the case. During the April 25 arguments before the justices, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said it was "crystal clear" that the travel restrictions were not a manifestation of Trump's call for a Muslim ban.

Critics also pointed to a government report that concluded citizenship is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats to the U.S. and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his first travel ban had carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011.

Just days into his presidency, an executive order affecting travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen caused scenes of disruption at several airports across the U.S.

After that order was struck down by the courts, the administration decided to write a second directive, which included all of the original countries except Iraq, rather than appeal the initial ban to the Supreme Court.

In a subsequent order in September, the administration added Chad, North Korea and Venezuela to the list of restricted countries while dropping Sudan. Chad was then removed two months ago.

The high court in June and December 2017 allowed two versions of the ban to take effect while court challenges ran their course but had not resolved the legal merits of the challenges until now.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the White House "finally got it right" on the travel ban and that the Supreme Court agrees.

"I think this is a decision the president should feel good about and I'm comfortable with, even though I didn't care for the earlier versions," McConnell said.

Doug Chin, the Hawaii attorney general who led the state's challenge, said Tuesday he "hurt today for Hawaii families and others who have experienced discrimination and scapegoating due to President Trump's bullying remarks and orders."

"The path to civil rights does not always come quickly, but I have faith in humanity and believe justice will eventually prevail," said Chin, who is now the state's lieutenant-governor.

Decision called 'government-led discrimination'

Rights groups condemned Tuesday's decision.

"The ruling will go down in history as one of the Supreme Court's great failures," said Omar Jadwat, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the ban.

The court's decision "swallows wholesale government lawyers' flimsy national security excuse for the ban instead of taking seriously the president's own explanation for his actions," Jadwat added.

"Not since key decisions on slavery, segregation in schools, and Japanese-American incarceration have we seen a decision that so clearly fails to protect those most vulnerable to government-led discrimination," added Farhana Khera, executive director of the group Muslim Advocates.

Noah Gottschalk, of the Boston-based charity Oxfam America, said Tuesday's 5-4 decision upholds an "un-American" policy that "institutionalizes" religious discrimination and sends a signal the world the U.S. "no longer believes the fundamental tenet that all people are created equal."

John Robbins, head of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that allowing the travel ban to stand affects the state's education and health-care sectors since many professors, doctors and researchers hail from the affected countries.

The head of the Syrian American Council said many are scared. Suzanne Meriden, a Syrian-American who is the group's executive director, called Tuesday "a very sad and difficult day for the Syrian community." Syria is one of the countries covered by the ban.

The ruling comes amid a massive government offensive in Daraa, near the Jordanian border, and as Jordan has announced it will not take any more Syrians fleeing the violence.

Voters encouraged to respond at ballot box

Wilfredo Ruiz, a Florida spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the solution was at the ballot box. He said opponents of the ban "will now look to counteract it in November by electing "a Congress that has different mentality on immigration and civil rights."

Chris Coons, a Democrat senator from Delaware who sits on the foreign relations committee, expressed his disappointment with the ruling and said he plans to introduce legislation soon to make clear that the U.S. does "not tolerate discrimination based on religion or nationality."

The ruling comes as the administration has shifted the U.S. approach concerning immigrants and refugees from that of previous administrations.

Trump also has moved to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the United States illegally as children, acted against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, ended protected status for certain immigrants in the country for decades, intensified deportation efforts and pursued limits on legal immigration.

Trump last week retreated on his administration's practice of separating the children of immigrants from their parents when families were detained illegally entering the United States.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press

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