WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court gave President Donald Trump a significant victory Monday, ruling he may put his full travel ban into effect while legal appeals are being weighed in lower courts.
The decision, with only two dissents, strongly suggests the justices believe the current version of Trump’s broad travel ban does not exceed his powers under the immigration laws and does not reflect unconstitutional religious discrimination against Muslims.
The justices issued an order Monday afternoon saying they had stayed or blocked lower court decisions that prevented full enforcement of the ban. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
The court’s action vindicates a rather bold procedural move by Trump’s Solicitor General Noel Francisco.
Two weeks ago, he filed an emergency plea with the high court urging the justices to bypass two lower courts that were weighing legal challenges to the third version of Trump’s travel order, which was issued Sept. 24.
The third version of the travel ban blocks visitors and immigrants from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea. The addition of North Korea is mostly symbolic, since the government did not expect to see visitors arriving from that country.
The order had gone into partial effect based on a middle-course position the Supreme Court set out in late June. Then, ruling on an earlier version of the travel order, the justices ruled the administration could refuse entry for visitors and immigrants from several Muslim nations, but not to families, travelers and others who had a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with person or entity in the United States.”
In recent weeks, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in California, and a federal judge in Maryland adopted that standard and applied it to Trump’s latest order. They agreed the ban could go into effect in part, but not against those who had close personal or professional ties to a person or an entity here. The 9th Circuit and the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., were still weighing claims that Trump’s order discriminated based on nationality in violation of a 1965 law. The appeals courts are also considering claims that the ban reflected unconstitutional bias against Muslims.
Trump’s lawyers were not satisfied with that partial win in the appeals courts. They filed an emergency appeal Nov. 20 contending that allowing the ban to go into only partial affect “will cause ongoing irreparable harm to the government and the public.” They predicted the court would eventually uphold the order so the justices should permit the order to go into full effect without further delay.
Lawyers for the ACLU and state of Hawaii filed lengthy responses urging the court to maintain the status quo while the legal claims are heard and decided. But Francisco told the justices that to allow that delay would “cause ongoing irreparable harm to the government and the public.”