On June 26, 2018, the US Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries, in a significant victory for the administration and a blow to anti-discrimination advocates. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court accepted the government’s argument that the ban was within the president’s power to craft national security policy and his authority to “suspend entry of aliens into the United States”.
The White House called the ruling “a tremendous victory for the American people” and said the Supreme Court “has upheld the clear authority of the president to defend the national security of the United States” despite “months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians”.
Opponents of the ban have said it has not made the country safer, while singling out Muslims for unfair treatment and violating constitutional protections against discrimination on religious grounds.
Even as the court upheld the ban, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized Trump, and emphasized the importance of the principle of religious non-discrimination in US history. “The president of the United States possesses an extraordinary power to speak to his fellow citizens and on their behalf,” Roberts wrote.“ Our presidents have frequently used that power to espouse the principles of religious freedom and tolerance on which this nation was founded.” Roberts pointed out that George W Bush defended “the true faith of Islam” after the September 11 attacks and said America is “a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth”. “Yet it cannot be denied,” Roberts wrote, “that the federal government and the presidents who have carried its laws into effect have – from the nation’s earliest days – performed unevenly in living up to those inspiring words.”
Roberts’ opinion did not address the question of whether it was intended to exclude Muslims specifically.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor found “stark parallels” between Tuesday’s decision and Korematsu v United States, the 1944 ruling in which the Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese Americans. The American Civil Liberties Union (hereinafter “ACLU”) also accused the court of repeating the Korematsu decision.
Roberts rejected the link to Korematsu, however.