US Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban

Challenging lawyers say the ban is "unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American"

US Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban

A police officer stands outside the Supreme Court in Washington D.C, 26-06-2018. Image: Ting Shen/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

The US Supreme Court has upheld Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting a number of Muslim-majority countries.

The nine-member court handed down its ruling today – finding that the ban did not represent unconstitutional religious discrimination.

The verdict is being hailed as a major victory for the US President and a significant blow to anti-discrimination campaigners, who had argued that the legislation represents an unlawful 'Muslim ban.'

The 5-4 ruling found that the ban does not violate either US immigration law – or the first Amendment to the US Constitution, which blocks the Government from favouring one religion over another.

Within minutes of the verdict this afternoon, President Trump tweeted: Wow!

Writing on behalf of the court, US chief Justice john Roberts said the Government had “set forth a sufficient national security justification” to defeat the legal challenge, however he noted that the court had “expressed no view on the soundness of the policy.”

He emphasised the importance principle of non-discrimination in US history and noted that America is “a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.”

Judicial anger

Justices Sonio Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan were the four who did not reject the challenge.

Justice Sotomayor said: "History will not look kindly on the court's misguided decision today, nor should it."

She said based on evidence "a reasonable observer would conclude that the proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus."

And she said her colleagues who voted against the challenge were "ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens."

"Unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American"

Neal Katyal , the lawyer who argued against the ban tweeted his disappointment at the decision – but warned President Trump not to take the ruling as an “approval to continue attacking our Constitution” adding “I will always fight it.”

“We continue to believe, as do four dissenting judges, that the travel ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American,” he said.

The Supreme Court ruling ends months of legal argument, after lower US courts blocked the current version of the ban, announced in September – as well as two prior versions – on constitutional grounds.

The current version prohibits most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen entering the US.

Two non-Muslim countries are also affected, with North Korean travellers blocked and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

It has largely been in effect since last December, even as the legal challenge was ongoing.

Chad, a Muslim majority country, was removed from the list in April.

The US Government argued that President Trump has the power to craft national security policy and the authority to suspend the entry of aliens in the US.

Opponents warn the ban has done nothing for national security and is in violation of constitutional protections against religious discrimination.