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Justices to Dive Into Travel Ban Policy04/23 06:07

   The justices' first deep dive into a Trump administration policy comes in a 
dispute over the third and latest version of the administration's ban on travel 
from some countries with majority Muslim populations. Opponents of the policy 
and some lower courts have labeled it a "Muslim ban," harking back to Trump's 
campaign call to keep Muslims from entering the country.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has so far had little to say about 
Donald Trump's time as president, even as the nation has moved from one Trump 
controversy to another. That's about to change.

   The justices' first deep dive into a Trump administration policy comes in a 
dispute over the third and latest version of the administration's ban on travel 
from some countries with majority Muslim populations. Opponents of the policy 
and some lower courts have labeled it a "Muslim ban," harking back to Trump's 
campaign call to keep Muslims from entering the country.

   The high-stakes arguments at the high court on Wednesday could offer some 
indication about how a court that runs on respect for traditions and precedent 
will deal with a president who regularly breaks with convention.

   Apart from the campaign statements, Trump's presidential tweets about the 
travel ban and last fall's retweets of inflammatory videos that stoked 
anti-Islam sentiment all could feature in the court's discussion of the travel 
ban's legality.

   "The court could get to the right outcome without getting into the question 
of his tweets. But I think the president set it up so that it's virtually 
impossible to ignore him when he's shouting from the rooftops about what his 
purpose was in the three versions of the ban," said Cecillia Wang, the American 
Civil Liberties Union's deputy legal director.

   Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who will argue the administration's case, 
said in a court filing that the ban is well within the president's authority 
and is not based on prejudice against Islam.

   In a sign of heightened public interest, the court is taking the rare step 
of making an audio recording of the proceedings available just hours after the 
arguments end.

   One key issue will be how the court evaluates administration actions.

   Neil Eggleston, President Barack Obama's last White House counsel, suggested 
in an online forum last week that Trump does not merit the same measure of 
latitude that courts usually give presidents, especially in the areas of 
national security and immigration.

   "The court will have to wrestle with how much to defer to a President who 
has created this record of chaos and animus," Eggleston and co-author Amanda 
Elbogen wrote on justsecurity.org.

   Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, 
cautioned that the court would be breaking new ground if it were to treat Trump 
differently from other presidents.

   The policy under review at the court applies to travelers from five 
countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations --- Iran, Libya, Somalia, 
Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries: blocking travelers 
from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. A 
sixth majority Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list this month after 
improving "its identity-management and information sharing practices," Trump 
said in a proclamation.

   Francisco said the Chad decision shows that the restrictions are premised 
only on national security concerns. He also said that the State Department has 
cleared more than 430 visa applicants from the affected countries for waivers 
that would allow them to enter the U.S.

   But the challengers argue that the administration cannot ask the court to 
ignore all that has happened.

   Trump's first travel ban was issued just a week after he took office in 
January 2017, and was aimed at seven countries. It triggered chaos and protests 
across the U.S. as travelers were stopped from boarding international flights 
and detained at airports for hours. Trump tweaked the order after the 9th U.S. 
Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to reinstate the ban.

   The next version, announced in March 2017, dropped Iraq from the list of 
covered countries and made it clear the 90-day ban covering Iran, Libya, 
Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen didn't apply to those travelers who already had 
visas. It also eliminated language that would give priority to religious 
minorities. Critics said the changes didn't erase the ban's legal problems.

   The 9th Circuit and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, 
Virginia, agreed with the ban's opponents. The 4th Circuit said the ban "drips 
with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination." The 9th Circuit ruled 
that Trump violated immigration law.

   The third version is indefinite, unlike the other two, and the 
administration said it is the product of a thorough review of how other 
countries screen their own citizens and share information with the U.S.

   It fared no better than its predecessors in the lower courts, but the 
Supreme Court said in an unsigned order in December that it could take full 
effect while the legal dispute continues. The justices said nothing about the 
substance of the policy, either in December or in earlier actions involving the 
ban.

   Now, though, they are confronted with the administration's view that Trump 
has broad discretion to impose limits on immigration and that the courts don't 
even have a role to play. The Justice Department has said throughout the course 
of the legal fight that the lawsuits challenging the policy should be dismissed 
without ever reaching the challengers' claims. The administration says that 
foreigners have no right to enter the United States and no right to challenge 
their exclusion in American courts.

   Supporting briefs for the ban's challengers dwarf filings on the 
administration's side. Retired high-ranking military officers, former 
Republican officeholders, Catholic bishops, Amazon, Facebook and 113 other 
companies, the children of Japanese-Americans who were held in internment camps 
during World War II and more than a dozen mainly Democratic-led states are 
among those calling on the court to strike down the Trump policy.

   The administration's supporters include roughly the same number of 
Republican-led states, as well as conservative groups and Jay Sekulow, one of 
Trump's personal lawyers.

   A decision in Trump v. Hawaii, 17-965, is expected by late June.


(KA)

 
 
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