The Trump administration’s “travel ban” — which will bar citizens of six majority-Muslim countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days — will finally go into effect over the summer.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that despite rulings in two different federal courts that the ban should be put on hold while judges decide whether it’s constitutional, the Trump administration should be allowed to enforce the ban starting on Thursday, June 29 (72 hours after the court’s ruling was issued).
But the Court’s ruling only lets the Trump administration ban certain people. Anyone with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or organization in America will be allowed to enter, as will anyone who already has a valid visa to enter the US.
The Supreme Court offered some guidance about who will be allowed to enter under its modified ban. But there are still big questions about how the administration will implement it — especially when it comes to refugees.
After months of decrying the federal courts’ past rulings on the travel ban Trump called the Supreme Court’s decision a “clear victory” Monday:
Today's unanimous Supreme Court decision is a clear victory for our national security. It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective.
As President, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm. I want people who can love the United States and all of its citizens, and who will be hardworking and productive.
My number one responsibility as Commander in Chief is to keep the American people safe. Today's ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our Nation's homeland. I am also particularly gratified that the Supreme Court’s decision was 9-0.
But there is still a long legal road ahead. The Court will hear the lawsuits against the ban in the fall. But the legal fight has suddenly turned anticlimactic. For the first time since February, the Trump administration’s signature immigration policy is going to shape people’s lives.
The ruling was unsigned, with 6 justices — the court’s four liberal justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) joined Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts in partially lifting the hold on the ban, while conservative justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito argued that the Trump administration should be allowed to enforce the ban in all cases.
Due to the Court’s ruling, the Trump administration will be able to bar citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States for a period of 90 days, and bar nearly all refugees from entering the US for a period of 120 days — but only if they haven’t already been issued a valid visa, and only if they don’t have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
In practice, according to the ruling, that means that people coming “to live with or visit a family member” will be allowed into the US. So will people coming to study, teach, or speak at American schools or work for American businesses.
Tourists from the six majority-Muslim countries who don’t have close family in the US will definitely be barred from entering. The biggest unsettled question, though, is what the impact will be on refugees.
Refugees don’t already have jobs before they’re allowed to settle in the US, and many of them don’t already have close family here. However, they do have a relationship with a US-based organization: US-based “refugee resettlement agencies” are responsible for settling refugees in the United States, and every refugee entering the US has already been placed with an agency.
The Supreme Court didn’t clarify whether simply being a client of a resettlement agency counts as a “bona fide” relationship. The organizations that have fought the ban are arguing it does. But it’s not clear whether the Trump administration will agree.
The Court has agreed to hear the case against the travel ban when it comes back in session in October. By that point, the 90-day ban will likely have been completed — potentially replaced by a longer, indefinite ban on entries from countries that don’t provide enough information to the US — and the 120-day refugee ban may be nearing its end as well.
It’s a massive victory for the Trump administration, which before Monday couldn’t get a break in court. Even if the Supreme Court ultimately rules that the lower courts were correct to stop the travel ban from going into effect, it’ll be totally moot — the bans will already have happened.