A needed tutorial in the law The Supreme Court upholds the president’s right to bar questionable migrants
The U.S. Supreme Court had a lesson Tuesday for the good-hearted folk who would apply feelings instead of the Constitution to the interpretation of the law. By the familiar 5 to 4 vote on constitutional issues, the High Court upheld the clear language of Congress in support of President Trump’s order limiting the entry of risky foreign nationals to the United States.
The third time was the charm for President Trump’s executive order limiting entry into the United States by citizens of Chad, Iran, Somalia, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. Two appeals courts earlier ruled otherwise. A majority of six of those eight nations are populated mostly by Muslims, one of those nations counts a majority of nominal Christians, and there is North Korea, where the citizens worship, or deeply regard, Kim Jong-un if they know what’s good for them.
The law, as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, “exudes deference to the president in every clause.” The law is the Immigration and Neutrality Act of 1952, enacted long before immigration became a matter of hot dispute and desperate disputation. It reads:
“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 non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
The decision notes there is no conflict between this and other federal laws, and even the grant of a visa does not entitle or guarantee a foreign national a right to enter the United States. From the court’s opinion:
“As every visa application explains, a visa does not entitle an alien to enter the United States, ‘if, upon arrival,’ an immigration officer determines that the applicant is ‘inadmissible under this chapter [of the law], or any other provision of law. …’” Common sense and historical practice, Chief Justice Roberts writes, have confirmed that presidents have the authority to suspend entry from foreign nations. President Reagan prohibited entry by Cuban nationals, and President Carter denied visas to Iranian nationals. The court observes “the critical fact,” often obscured in current arguments over immigration, that foreign nationals have “no constitutional right to entry” into the United States.
The language of the decision could almost be read as a tutorial for the four dissenting justices and the lower appellate courts from which this distorted case sprang, about what constitutional law is all about. Sentiment in its place is good and proper, but it is not a substitute for the Constitution and the law. The decision is a needed reminder that while the president’s campaign language about the reliability of Islamic nations was sometimes extreme and even malicious, his policy is focused and leaves undisturbed the rights of millions of Muslims across the world.
The scope of the president’s order was limited to nations with a history of extreme jihad, lawlessness and hostility to the United States, whether for religious or other reasons. These nations are responsible for who they are, and why, and the president is responsible for protecting the United States. Ours is not yet an open border.