The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to the latest iteration of President Donald Trump’s travel sanctions, a high-profile addition to a docket burgeoning with landmark decisions.
The justices set the case — Trump v. Hawaii — for oral argument in April.
“The courts below have overridden the president’s judgments on sensitive matters of national security and foreign relations, and severely restricted the ability of this and future presidents to protect the nation,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the government’s Supreme Court lawyer, wrote in his petition to the high court.
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The current travel ban, which was promulgated in Sept. 2017, restricts travel to varying degrees from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
The high court stayed lower court injunctions issued against the new order in Dec. 2017. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from that decision. The December ruling suggests a majority of the Court believes the government will ultimately prevail on the merits, as issuance of a stay requires the Trump administration to show a “substantial likelihood of success” in defending the travel ban.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the latest travel sanctions violate a federal immigration law which prohibits the government from discriminating on the basis of nationality when issuing visas. The court did not say if the ban violates the Constitution, as other federal courts have found.
At the bidding of both parties, the justices asked the parties to explain if Trump’s travel ban violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, which forbids the government from favoring one religion over another.
“An objective observer would still conclude that EO-3’s purpose is the fulfillment of the president’s unconstitutional promise to enact a Muslim ban,” Hawaii told the justices, referencing one of Trump’s campaign promises.
The administration counters that the new ban was the product of a neutral inter-agency review process free of anti-Muslim bigotry.
“The conclusions of the multi-agency review and recommendation process, and the tailoring of the proclamation’s restrictions, provide a ‘facially legitimate and bona fide reason’ for the exclusion of the covered aliens,” the government told the Court.
A decision is expected in June.
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