Trump jubilant as 'anti-Muslim' travel ban wins court backing
The US Supreme Court yesterday upheld Donald Trump's travel ban covering people from several Muslim-majority countries, handing him one of the biggest victories of his presidency.
The decision was passed 5-4, splitting the justices along political lines. Mr Trump greeted the news by tweeting "wow!"
The ban prevents most immigrants, refugees and visa holders from five Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen - as well as North Korea and Venezuela from entering the US.
Supporters of the policy argued it was needed for national security yet critics insisted that Mr Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric showed the ban was effectively discriminating on religious grounds.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion for the five conservative justices, argued the travel ban was "neutral" and did not exceed the powers of the presidency.
Mr Roberts said the policy had "a legitimate grounding in national security concerns", while insisting the court would express "no view on the soundness" of the travel ban.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: "History will not look kindly on the court's misguided decision today, nor should it."
She said that based on the evidence in the case "a reasonable observer would conclude that the proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus".
Mr Trump responded by saying the "tremendous victory" was "a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country".
However, leading Democrats were appalled by the decision.
Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said: "It is not within the president's authority to discriminate on religion ... the ruling is simply ignoring the truth of what the president is trying to do."
Meanwhile, 17 states, including New York and California, are suing the Trump administration to force it to reunite the thousands of immigrant children and parents it separated at the border, as the legal and political pressure mounted to reconnect families more quickly.
"The administration's practice of separating families is cruel, plain and simple," said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. "Every day, it seems like the administration is issuing new, contradictory policies and relying on new, contradictory justifications. But we can't forget: The lives of real people hang in the balance."
The states, all led by Democratic attorneys general, joined Washington DC in filing the lawsuit in federal court in Seattle, arguing that they are being forced to shoulder increased child welfare, education and social services costs.
Separately, immigration-rights activists asked a federal judge in Los Angeles to order that parents be released and immediately reunited with their children.
In a speech before the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Los Angeles, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the administration for taking a hardline stand on illegal immigration and said the voters elected the president to do just that.
"This is the Trump era," he said. "We are enforcing our laws again. We know whose side we are on - so does this group - and we're on the side of police, and we're on the side of the public safety of the American people."
More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in recent weeks and placed in government-contracted shelters - hundreds of kilometres away, in some cases - under a now-abandoned policy toward families caught illegally entering the US.
Amid an international outcry, President Donald Trump last week issued an executive order to stop the separation of families and said parents and children will instead be detained together.
But precious few families have been reunited, and the Trump administration has disclosed next to nothing on how the process will be carried out or how long it will take.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress said yesterday his department still had custody of 2,047 immigrant children separated from their parents at the border. That is only six fewer children than the number in HHS custody as of last Wednesday.
Democratic senators said that wasn't nearly enough progress.