Supreme Court Allows Trump's Travel Ban to Go Into Full Effect

But legal challenges to the ban are still ongoing.


President Trump

On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the latest version of President Donald Trump's "travel ban" to go into full effect while two legal challenges to it work their way through the courts.

The latest version of the ban, issued in September, bars most travel from eight separate countries: Iran, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. It was originally supposed to take effect on October 18, but a federal judge blocked it on October 17.

The Supreme Court's decision marks the first time the ban—the first iteration of which was issued in January—will be allowed to be fully implemented.

"We are pleased to have defended this order and heartened that a clear majority [of the] Supreme Court has allowed the President's lawful proclamation protecting our country's national security to go into full effect," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in written statement after the decision.

Two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, expressed reservations about the decision.

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, calls the ruling "unfortunate."

"President Trump's anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret—he has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter," Jadwat said in a statement. "We continue to stand for freedom, equality, and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones."

Jadwat's group is leading one of the lawsuits against the travel ban, arguing that the policy amounts to unconstitutional religious discrimination. A similar suit was filed by the State of Hawaii.

The Trump administration has had to continually defend its travel restrictions since it first issued the infamous "Muslim ban" on January 27. That version of the order prohibited travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, even for those with valid U.S. visas. It also put a freeze on the U.S. refugee program, and it banned Syrian refugees indefinitely.

The new policy's rollout was disastrous. Both travelers and immigration officials were confused by the new rules, and mass protests broke out at airports nationwide. A federal judge issued an emergency injunction against the ban one day after Trump signed it.

In March, Trump tried again, issuing a slightly scaled back order that exempted visa holders. The new ban also took Iraq off the list of prohibited countries, and it reduced the hold on Syrian refugee resettlement to 120 days. Multiple states sued over this version as well, and a federal judge temporarily halted its implementation on March 16, setting off a months-long legal battle. In June the Supreme Court allowed a limited version of Trump's travel ban to go into effect, while upholding lower court restrictions on some of its provisions.

Finally, on September 24, Trump scrapped the March version of his travel ban as well, issuing a yet more scaled-back version of the policy. And that brings us to where we are now.

The Supreme Court's decision yesterday did not rule on the merits of either lawsuit, both of which will proceed apace. Hawaii will make its case before a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel Wednesday. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the American Civil Liberties Union's case this Friday.

Even if this version is ultimately ruled legally sound, that doesn't mean it's good policy. As Reason's Shikha Dalmia wrote in September, the ban is "cheap, cruel, and senseless." The purported reason for it, after all, is to keep Americans safe from terrorism. But as Dalmia explained,

Americans' risk of dying in a terrorist attack perpetrated by a foreigner on U.S. soil is one in 3.6 million per year (and this includes the deaths that took place during the 9/11 attacks, whose massive casualty count is something of an outlier). The chance of being struck by a refugee is even lower. But the real kicker is that migrants from the banned countries have killed precisely zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.

Shutting the door to millions of people without any appreciable security benefit for Americans isn't smart. It's hysterical.