U.S. Supreme Court

Will swing voter Kennedy uphold Trump's travel ban? Oral arguments show support for US position

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Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy indicated support for President Donald Trump’s authority to institute his travel ban during oral arguments on Wednesday.

According to the New York Times, questioning by Roberts and Kennedy was “almost uniformly hostile to challengers” who oppose the latest version of the ban, issued last September. Immigrant rights groups had hoped at least one of the two justices would vote to overturn the ban.

The New York Times is not alone in its assessment. The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post also agreed that the court appeared ready to uphold the restrictions on travel to the United States from seven countries, including five predominantly Muslim nations—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. An eighth country, Chad, was removed from the list earlier this month.

USA Today and Politico, however, say Kennedy appeared conflicted during questioning.

Arguing for the challengers, former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells acknowledged the president has great power to make immigration decisions. But he argued that the travel ban “takes an “iron wrecking ball to the statute.”

Katyal also argued the ban violates the establishment clause, and has cited Trump’s prior statements to support his position.

Current Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued the ban was based on documented national security concerns, and it still allows people from many Muslim-majority countries to enter the United States.

The ban “is not a so-called Muslim ban. If it were, it would be the most ineffective Muslim ban that you can possibly imagine since not only does it exclude the vast majority of the Muslim world, it also omits three Muslim-majority countries that were covered by past orders,” he said.

Roberts posed questions about the president’s power to stop terrorism, and he asked whether Trump would be forever barred from acting on immigration because of his prior comments.

“Is there a statute of limitations on that?” Roberts asked.

The case is Trump v. Hawaii. Transcripts are here, and audio is here.

Related articles:

ABA Journal.com: “SCOTUS agrees to hear case on Trump’s latest travel ban”

ABAJournal.com: “Chemerinsky: The travel ban and the Supreme Court”

ABAJournal.com: “Courts have power to review travel ban, enforce limits on executive power, ABA says in SCOTUS brief”

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