On June 26, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ended the great debate by ruling that President Trump’s travel ban is constitutional and within his power to implement. In September 2017, President Trump issued Proclamation No. 9645 after the first two versions of the travel ban were ruled unconstitutional for multiple reasons, most importantly being racial discrimination. Speculation is mounting as to the effects this decision will have on U.S. national security and foreign policy.
The current version suspends entry from certain individuals from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Each country has varying degrees of suspension, meaning some countries are banned as immigrants and nonimmigrants, while others are just banned as immigrants but with multiple exceptions.
In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Roberts reasoned that the President lawfully exercised his power under §1182(f) of the Aliens and Nationality Act because the act conveys a large degree of deference to the President in such matters. It gives the President the power to decide whether and when to suspend entry whenever he finds that the entry of aliens would be detrimental to the national interest. In addressing the plaintiff’s racial animus argument, the majority stated that the issue they dealt with was the significance of the President’s alleged racial statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility. The majority held that there is persuasive evidence that the ban has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, apart from any religious hostility, and is therefore justified.
The U.S. judiciary already grants the U.S. government a large degree of deference in national security matters, but that appears to have increased even more. The case sets the precedent that public and political statements made by the President shall not outweigh the language and structure of the proclamation itself. While this principle exemplifies the judiciary’s responsibility to remain politically neutral, it could have national security and foreign policy ramifications. According to an amicus brief approved by 26 retired generals and admirals, the ban harms U.S. national security because it perpetuates hostility towards Muslims and Muslim majority countries. It could help increase anti-U.S. propaganda by terrorists within the countries on the list and undermine relationships with locals. Former national security and foreign policy officials wrote a separate amicus brief stating that the government has failed to produce any national security reason for the ban. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, as Congress designated these countries as posing national security threats in the past.
A major issue that has yet to be fully addressed is the impact this decision will have on refugees attempting to enter the U.S. Under the U.N. Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, signatory countries cannot turn away refugees who have a legitimate fear of persecution within their home country. According to Chris Boian, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in the U.S., “refugees will still be admitted under the vigorous vetting requirements,” including those from countries on the travel ban list. So the decision itself will not affect the inflow of refugees, but combining it with the reduction in the number of refugees the U.S. will accept, the backlog of refugee cases, and the four month suspension of the U.S. refugee program, it appears there could be a moderate to severe effect.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that this decision will allow the current President, and future ones, to protect the American people. Given the amount of deference granted to the President in matters such as this, the Attorney General’s statement appears true. But Justice Sotomayor foresees a darker result. In her dissent she equated this decision to the decision in Korematsu to detain Japanese-American citizens during WWII, implying that the amount of deference provides Presidents with ways to enact morally repugnant acts such as Korematsu. The exact effects remain to be seen, but this decision will either be celebrated in years to come, or haunt the U.S. Supreme Court.
 Trump v. Hawaii, No. 17-965, 2018 WL 3116337, slip op. at 2 (U.S. June 26, 2018).
 Griffiths, What it’s Like in the 7 Countries on Trump’s Travel Ban List, CNN Politics (June 27, 2018 6:32 A.M.) https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/27/politics/trump-travel-ban-countries-intl/index.html.
 Slip op. at 9.
 Id. at 3.
 Id. at 22.
 Stottlemyer, Ex-Military, Intelligence, and Foreign Policy Officials: Travel Ban Harms National Security, JUST SECURITY (Apr. 4, 2018) https://www.justsecurity.org/54506/ex-military-intelligence-foreign-policy-officials-travel-ban-harms-national-security/.
 Trump v. Hawaii, No. 17-965, 2018 WL 3116337, slip op. at 3 (U.S. June 26, 2018).
 Amman, Supreme Court’s Nod to Travel Ban Heightens Refugee Worries, abcNEWS (June 27, 2018, 12:06 P.M.) https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/supreme-court-nod-travel-ban-crushes-syria-refugees-56197209.
 Stohr, Supreme Court Upholds Trump Travel Ban, Giving President Win on Signature Issue, Bloomberg (June 26, 2018, 10:17 A.M.) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-26/trump-travel-ban-upheld-by-u-s-supreme-court-jivrzei4.