Supreme Court’s Historic Immigration Decision in Trump v. Hawaii

Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Washington, DC

WASHINGON, DC – The Supreme Court ruled in favor of President Trump and his “extreme vetting” immigration policy across the board in a 5-4 decision on Tuesday, holding that the permanent entry restrictions from seven terror-prone nations codified in Presidential Proclamation 9645 is fully consistent with Congress’s Immigration and Nationality Act as well as the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“The Proclamation is squarely within the scope of Presidential authority,” the Court declared in its opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States undergo a vetting process to ensure that they satisfy the numerous requirements for admission,” Roberts began. “The Act also vests the President with authority to restrict the entry of aliens whenever he finds that their entry would be detrimental to the interests of the United States,” quoting 8 U. S. C. §1182(f).

“Relying on that delegation, the President concluded that it was necessary to impose entry restrictions on nationals of countries that do not share adequate information for an informed entry determination, or that otherwise present national security risks,” he continued, quoting the language of Presidential Proclamation 9645.

“To further that purpose, the Proclamation placed entry restrictions on the nationals of eight foreign states whose systems for managing and sharing information about their nationals the President deemed inadequate,” Roberts added.

“The Proclamation exempts lawful permanent residents and foreign nationals who have been granted asylum,” the Court continued. “It also provides for case-by-case waivers when a foreign national demonstrates undue hardship, and that his entry is in the national interest and would not pose a threat to public safety.”

The plaintiffs in the case argued that Proclamation 9645 is not authorized by the Immigration and National Act (INA). “The INA establishes numerous grounds on which an alien abroad may be inadmissible to the United States and ineligible for a visa,” the opinion explains.

“Congress has also delegated to the President authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens in certain circumstances,” the majority added. “The principal source of that authority, §1182(f), enables the President to ‘suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens’ whenever he ‘finds’ that their entry ‘would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.’”

“By its plain language, §1182(f) grants the President broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States,” the Supreme Court held. “The President lawfully exercised that discretion based on his findings—following a worldwide, multi-agency review—that entry of the covered aliens would be detrimental to the national interest.”

“By its terms, §1182(f) exudes deference to the President in every clause. It entrusts to the President the decisions whether and when to suspend entry,” Roberts wrote. “The Proclamation falls well within this comprehensive delegation.”

The plaintiffs also argued that Presidential Proclamation 9645 violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which provides, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

“Our cases recognize that the clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another,” Roberts began that part of the opinion.

“Plaintiffs believe that the Proclamation violates this prohibition by singling out Muslims for disfavored treatment,” the Court explained. “The entry suspension, they contend, operates as a ‘religious gerrymander,’ in part because most of the countries covered by the Proclamation have Muslim-majority populations.”

The challengers “argue that this President’s words strike at fundamental standards of respect and tolerance, in violation of our constitutional tradition. But the issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements,” Roberts reasoned. “It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility.”

“For more than a century, this Court has recognized that the admission and exclusion of foreign nationals is a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control,” the Court declared.

“Nonetheless, although foreign nationals seeking admission have no constitutional right to entry, this Court has engaged in a circumscribed judicial inquiry when the denial of a visa allegedly burdens the constitutional rights of a U. S. citizen,” the justices noted.

“Given the authority of the political branches over admission, we held that when the Executive exercises this delegated power negatively on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason,” the majority explained, “the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the asserted constitutional interests of U.S. citizens.”

The Court held that when it comes to immigration decisions, its 1972 Establishment Clause case Kleindienst v. Mandel sets forth the proper test, which requires a “deferential standard of review across different contexts and constitutional claims.”

Mandel’s narrow standard of review has particular force in admission and immigration cases that overlap with the area of national security,” Roberts wrote. “Judicial inquiry into the national-security realm raises concerns for the separation of powers by intruding on the President’s constitutional responsibilities in the area of foreign affairs.”

The Supreme Court declared:

The upshot of our cases in this context is clear: “Any rule of constitutional law that would inhibit the flexibility” of the President “to respond to changing world conditions should be adopted only with the greatest caution,” and our inquiry into matters of entry and national security is highly constrained.

“More fundamentally, plaintiffs and the dissent challenge the entry suspension based on their perception of its effectiveness and wisdom. They suggest that the policy is overbroad and does little to serve national security interests,” Roberts noted. “But we cannot substitute our own assessment for the Executive’s predictive judgments on such matters, all of which are delicate, complex, and involve large elements of prophecy.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a concurring opinion in addition to joining the Court’s majority opinion, writing separately to encourage the political branches of government to aspire to unifying and welcoming rhetoric on divisive issues that arise in this context.

Kennedy added that as this case now goes back to the lower courts for gathering evidence and further consideration, “It would be necessary to determine that any discovery and other preliminary matters would not themselves intrude on the foreign affairs power of the Executive.”

Justice Clarence Thomas likewise joined the majority opinion, then wrote a lengthy concurrence, first making the point that “the Establishment Clause does not create an individual right to be free from all laws that a reasonable observer views as religious or antireligious.”

Thomas focused most of his attention on the growing trend of individual federal trial courts issuing orders blocking the Trump administration.

“District courts, including the one here, have begun imposing universal injunctions without considering their authority to grant such sweeping relief,” Thomas wrote:

These injunctions are beginning to take a toll on the federal court system— preventing legal questions from percolating through the federal courts, encouraging forum shopping, and making every case a national emergency for the courts and for the Executive Branch.

“In sum, universal injunctions are legally and historically dubious. If federal courts continue to issue them, this Court is dutybound to adjudicate their authority to do so,” he concluded.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a vigorous dissent, joined by Justice Elena Kagan.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote an even more impassioned dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In her dissent, Sotomayor compared Tuesday’s decision to the Supreme Court’s 1945 decision in Korematsu v. United States, where the Court upheld holding Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II.

Chief Justice Roberts took great exception to that comparison, writing for the majority, “Whatever rhetorical advantage the dissent may see in doing so, Korematsu has nothing to do with this case.”

“The forcible relocation of U.S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential authority,” Roberts continued. “But it is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission [into the United States.]”

The case now goes back to the lower courts for additional proceedings, but the Supreme Court’s holdings on these legal issues are now permanently binding as a precedent of the Court.

The case is Trump v. Hawaii, No. 17-965 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.

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