Immigration ban temporarily suspended
February 14, 2017
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The controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven Middle Eastern and African countries has continued in court. On Feb. 3 James Robart, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the ban.
The nationwide TRO is the result of a complaint filed by the State of Washington, joined by the State of Minnesota. Both states argued that the ban caused harm to their economies, as well as public universities and other higher education institutions.
The Trump administration immediately appealed the issue, to no avail. On Feb. 9, a federal appeals court unanimously upheld the suspension of the ban.
“I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for the court to do, because there’s no imminent threat that makes it necessarily life and death,” said Michael Federici, Ph.D., department chair and professor of Political Science.
From a legal standpoint, the Trump administration essentially has two options: appeal directly to the Supreme Court or rewrite the policy.
The constitutionality of the current policy is unclear, though the Supreme Court has a tendency to be fairly tolerant with the presidential use of international powers. It is sometimes difficult to find the balance between civil liberty and security — and either way the court rules would have great consequences.
“If the court strikes down the ban, and then a terrorist comes through from one of those seven countries it would turn public opinion in favor of the ban and against the court,” Federici said.
With only eight justices, the Supreme Court would need a 5-3 ruling to overrule the lower courts.
“It would be best if the administration would rewrite the policy. I think it could be done in a way that is constitutional,” Federici said.
The implications of the ban, constitutional or not, extend far beyond the borders of the United States.
“The big concern that I, and many people have, is the message that this sends to other nations. Nations that have taken tens and even hundreds of thousands of refugees in. We’re setting a double standard,” said Joseph Morris, Ph.D., associate professor of Political Science and director of the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics.
The domestic consequences are equally troubling. Because the rhetoric of Trump’s campaign was so hostile to Muslims, the executive order is being perceived by many as religiously motivated.
“It’s not technically a ban on Muslims alone, and it’s certainly not a ban on all Muslims. The question then becomes, is the intention of the ban to apply to Muslims differently than non-Muslims? And is the effect to discriminate against Muslims more than non-Muslims?” said Federici. “The real question, at the end of the day, is: is the security threat great enough that it can justify the ban?”
While there is legitimate concern about terrorism, the United States has the most extreme vetting system for refugees in the world. It is extremely unlikely, though still possible, that a terrorist would pose as a refugee.
Whether the ban is religious discrimination or not, does not necessarily affect its constitutionality. It will, however, have a big impact on American culture and society.
“Presidents have historically been both moral and political leaders. They say who is good and who is bad,” said Morris. “I worry that it’s going to lead a nation to be suspicious of Muslims in a way that isn’t necessarily justified.”
When asked about the effect within the Mercyhurst community, Morris was unconcerned.
“We’re a pretty darn inclusive place,” said Morris. “If anything, this is a time for students to reflect on the core values and mission of the school — and work toward applying that in a mindful way.”