(CNSNews.com) - A 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that President Donald Trump acted within his legal authority when he issued a proclamation in September 2017 restricting entry into the United States of citizens from eight countries who could not be properly vetted as potential terrorist threats.
The majority opinion in Trump v. Hawaii--written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Anthony Kennedy—held that Trump’s proclamation was well within the plain meaning of the power granted expressly to the president in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
“By its plain language, §1182(f) grants the president broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States,” Roberts wrote in the opinion of the court.
“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,” said Roberts. “And plaintiffs’ attempts to identify a conflict with other provisions in the INA, and their appeal to the statute’s purposes and legislative history, fail to overcome the clear statutory language.”
The eight countries subject to the president’s proclamation were Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
The state of Hawaii sued to overturn the president’s proclamation.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in arguing that President Trump’s proclamation restricting entry by nationals of these countries violated the First Amendment’s ban on the government establishing a religion.
“The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty,” said Sotomayor.
“Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment,” she wrote. “The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns.
“But this repackaging does little to cleanse Presidential Proclamation No. 9645 of the appearance of discrimination that the president’s words have created,” Sotomayor wrote. “Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.”
Here is a key excerpt from Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion:
The INA establishes numerous grounds on which an alien abroad may be inadmissible to the United States and ineligible for a visa. See, e.g., 8 U. S. C. §§1182(a)(1) (health-related grounds), (a)(2) (criminal history), (a)(3)(B)(terrorist activities), (a)(3)(C) (foreign policy grounds). Congress has also delegated to the President authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens in certain circumstances. 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.”
Plaintiffs argue that the Proclamation is not a valid exercise of the President’s authority under the INA. In their view, §1182(f) confers only a residual power to temporarily halt the entry of a discrete group of aliens engaged in harmful conduct. They also assert that the Proclamation violates another provision of the INA—8 U. S. C. §1152(a)(1)(A)—because it discriminates on the basis of nationality in the issuance of immigrant visas.
By its plain language, §1182(f) grants the President broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States. 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. And plaintiffs’ attempts to identify a conflict with other provisions in the INA, and their appeal to the statute’s purposes and legislative history, fail to overcome the clear statutory language.
The text of §1182(f) states: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
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 (“[w]henever [he] finds that the entry” of aliens “would be detrimental” to the national interest); whose entry to suspend (“all aliensor any class of aliens”); for how long (“for such period as he shall deem necessary”); and on what conditions (“any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate”). It is therefore unsurprising that we have previously observed that§1182(f) vests the President with “ample power” to impose entry restrictions in addition to those elsewhere enumerated in the INA. Sale, 509 U. S., at 187 (finding it “perfectly clear” that the President could “establish a naval blockade” to prevent illegal migrants from entering the United States); see also Abourezk v. Reagan, 785 F. 2d 1043, 1049, n. 2 (CADC 1986) (describing the “sweeping proclamation power” in §1182(f) as enabling the President to supplement the other grounds of inadmissibility in the INA).
The Proclamation falls well within this comprehensive delegation. …
The Proclamation is squarely within the scope of Presidential authority under the INA. Indeed, neither dissent even attempts any serious argument to the contrary, despite the fact that plaintiffs’ primary contention below and in their briefing before this Court was that the Proclamation violated the statute.