However the Justices may feel about an executive order’s morality ought to be ultimately irrelevant in their job.
The Supreme Court has upheld parts of President Trump’s Executive Order (13780) denying visas and pausing admittance of refugees from six Middle Eastern countries. The President’s supporters have claimed this as a victory, citing the ruling as an example of President Trump fulfilling his campaign promises, despite criticism from the opposition. Senator Lindsay Graham, regarded as a moderate Republican, who has criticized President Trump in the past, even voiced his support: “This Executive Order will help achieve President Trump’s goal of making us safer.”
On the other hand, critics are vehemently opposed to the ban, claiming that it is a disguised “Muslim Ban” that panders to the xenophobia that they claim is characteristic of the right. Despite this being the most scaled back iteration of the ban, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi argued: “This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror.”
In a history of xenophobic immigration policies, critics argue that the ban is just the latest chapter. Their disappointment in the direction of the Supreme Court ruling is apparent. The precedent it sets forth, they warn, legitimizes future discriminatory immigration policy. Further, they claim that the ban is an act of cowardice and against American values. As Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts emphasized: “I’m disappointed that the court just didn’t rule that a Muslim ban in and of itself is unconstitutional.”
However, this attitude by critics belays a critical misunderstanding in the Supreme Court’s role. In reviewing an Executive Order, the Supreme Court is only required to validate that it is in accordance with the Constitution. However the Justices may feel regarding an executive order’s morality, or even its good for the nation, ought to be ultimately irrelevant in their job.
Examining the diction of the executive order reveals that it does agree with the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees these rights to American citizens, and the order exclusively affects non-nationals. While some may argue that Trump’s ban violates the First Amendment by discriminating on basis of religion, the order only cites a fraction of officially Islamic nations worldwide.
Additionally, while the President may have implied bias towards the Christian population in these countries in earlier statements preceding Order 13780, the order as presented to the court did not have any such provisions.
What the Supreme Court ruling does allow for, however, is granting visas for any individual with “bonafide relationship with any person or entity in the United States.” This permits those with family, or educational or work invitations to enter the United States. However, other parts of the original order blocking refugees are still in place.
While the response to the ruling is polemical, it is important to keep in mind that the unanimity of the ruling paints a very different picture of U.S politics than the other two branches.
In the face of one of the earliest executive orders by the President, the Supreme Court proved that despite party ties, it will continue to put the Constitution above all else. While perhaps the political leanings of each Justice may have prompted them to vote otherwise, there is nothing inherently unconstitutional about the order and thus its heartening to see the objective ruling that the Justices brought forth.
Democratic concerns of the fate of the Supreme Court under Trump’s Presidency can be assuaged. Through this ruling, the Judicial Branch proves it will continue to be an example of bipartisan cooperation that may translate to the other branches. Short of that however, the Supreme Court of Trump’s era can be trusted to keep the machinations of the other two branches in check. By upholding the refugee rulings, the Supreme Court afforded President Trump and his constituents a perceived political victory, yet still managed to allow America to stand as a bastion of opportunity in the eyes of the world.