Washington — Washington - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Trump administration's travel restrictions on citizens from five Muslim countries, handing President Donald Trump a victory in enforcing one of his most controversial policies.
In a 5-4 split decision, the high court justices ruled that the president has the constitutional authority under U.S. immigration laws to limit travel from foreign countries over national security concerns, as the administration has argued.
Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion, writing that Trump's September 2017 executive order restricting travel is "squarely within the scope of presidential authority" under U.S. immigration laws.
The president has "undoubtedly fulfilled" the requirement under the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that the entry of the targeted foreign travelers "would be detrimental to the interests of the United States," Roberts wrote.
The chief justice also dismissed arguments of the challengers - the state of Hawaii, the Hawaii Muslim Association and three residents - that the travel restrictions violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which bars favoring one religion over another.
Opposition in and out of court
Unsurprisingly, the court's four liberal justices dissented from Tuesday's ruling.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor likened it to a 1944 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the U.S. government's authority to place Japanese-Americans in military internment camps during World War II.
"History will not look kindly on the court's misguided decision today, nor should it," Sotomayor wrote.
Under the travel ban, issued in September after courts blocked its two earlier permutations, citizens of five Muslim countries - Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen - as well as North Koreans and some Venezuelan officials - are barred from traveling to the United States.
Chad, another predominantly Muslim nation, was initially on the list, but was dropped in April after the U.S. government said the country had complied with its information-sharing requirements.
The decision caps nearly 17 months of intense court battles between an administration determined to fiercely defend the president's travel orders on grounds of national security and executive authority and detractors who characterized it as an ideologically inspired "Muslim ban."
In a statement, Trump called the ruling "a tremendous victory for the American People and the Constitution."
"In this era of worldwide terrorism and extremist movements bent on harming innocent civilians, we must properly vet those coming into our country," Trump said.
There is no evidence that immigrants and foreign travelers in general - and specifically from the countries singled out by the executive order - are more likely to pose a threat to national security than native-born Americans.
Muslim Advocates, a Washington-based advocacy organization, said that with its ruling, the court affirmed "Trump's bigoted Muslim ban" and has "given a green light to religious discrimination and animus."