By Adam Liptak
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump acted lawfully in imposing limits on travel from several predominantly Muslims nations, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The vote was 5-4, with the court’s conservatives in the majority.
The court’s decision, a major statement on presidential power, marked the conclusion of a long-running dispute over Trump’s authority to make good on his campaign promises to secure the nation’s borders.
Just a week after he took office, Trump issued his first travel ban, causing chaos at the nation’s airports and starting a cascade of lawsuits and appeals. The first ban, drafted in haste, was promptly blocked by courts around the nation.
A second version, issued two months later, fared little better, although the Supreme Court allowed part of it go into effect last June when it agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeals from court decisions blocking it. But the Supreme Court dismissed those appeals in October after the second ban expired.
In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Trump’s third and most considered entry ban, issued as a presidential proclamation in September. It initially restricted travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim – Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, Venezuela and North Korea. Chad was later removed from the list.
The restrictions varied in their details, but, for the most part, citizens of the countries were forbidden from emigrating to the United States and many of them are barred from working, studying or vacationing here. In December, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to go into effect while legal challenges moved forward.
Hawaii, several individuals and a Muslim group challenged the latest ban’s limits on travel from the predominantly Muslim nations; they did not object to the portions concerning North Korea and Venezuela. They said the latest ban, like the earlier ones, was tainted by religious animus and not adequately justified by national security concerns.
The challengers prevailed before a U.S. District Court there and before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco.
The appeals court ruled that Trump had exceeded the authority Congress had given him over immigration and had violated a part of the immigration laws barring discrimination in the issuance of visas. In a separate decision that was not directly before the justices, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia, blocked the ban on a different ground, saying it violated the Constitution’s prohibition of religious discrimination.