By Alisha Haridasani
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants and refugees from several mostly Muslim countries, rejecting the arguments that the policy went beyond presidential powers and discriminated against one religion.
“The president has lawfully exercised the broad discretion granted to him,” said Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority.
The 5-4 ruling fell along partisan lines, and the difference between the two sides fundamentally boiled down to a close reading of the Constitution as it applied to the travel policy versus a broader approach to the case.
"Certainly the conservative block of the Supreme Court was looking very narrowly at the president's power," said Joe Williams, senior news editor at U.S. News. "The opposing side was looking more at whether or not this was the right thing to do."
The justices who dissented pointed to Trump's campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. as potentially motivating the policy, in which case it would be unlawful.
“The United States of America is a nation built upon the promise of religious liberty,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a strongly-worded dissent. “The court’s decision today fails to safeguard that principle.”
Judge Sotomayor even went so far as to compare Trump's policy to the internment of Japanese people during the second World War.
But the majority of conservative judges concluded that the president's campaign rhetoric was irrelevant and didn't negate his right to determine immigration policies.
The president responded jubilantly, describing the ruling as “a tremendous victory for the American people and for our Constitution.”
Trump, in one of his first acts as commander-in-chief, signed an executive order last year that banned travel from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for national security reasons. The policy, which many opponents perceived as thinly veiled religious bias, set off a national backlash and widespread protests.
After two lower courts decided that the policy was both unconstitutional and unlikely to protect the country from terrorism, the administration drew up a version that excluded Iraq and Sudan, added Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea, and contained waivers for green card holders or students. It didn't single out any religion in the text.
A federal judge in Hawaii halted the implementation of that modified policy nationwide in October, and the Supreme Court ruling is related to that ruling.
In December, the Supreme Court allowed the current version of the ban, weakened from its controversial initial form, to take effect while the case worked its way through the legal system.
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