From the beginning, President Trump's arguments defending his ban on travel to the U.S. by people from first seven, now six, predominately Muslim countries have rung hollow. The ban — issued days after he took the oath of office, then revised in March after the courts ruled against him — remains a shameful solution in search of a problem, and the lower courts were right to freeze it barring a full court review.
The decision by the Supreme Court on Monday to let some of the ban go into effect even before the court decides the merits of the legal challenges is disappointing, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and upheaval. But it also sets the stage for what could be a significant ruling on whether the president exceeded his authority in ordering the ban.
In partially lifting injunctions issued by judges in Maryland, Washington state and Hawaii, the Supreme Court in effect split the baby. People from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen may be denied entry for 90 days, and refugees from any country can be denied entry for 120 days, while the government rethinks its screening and vetting procedures. But if the applicants have a credible connection with the United States — such as a relative living here, a job offer or acceptance into a university — they would not be prohibited from entering the country.
The president and his surrogates have argued that the ban is necessary to protect the U.S. from terrorists. Yet no one from the six affected countries has killed anyone in a terror attack on U.S. soil since 1975, according to the Cato Institute. Similarly, the Migration Policy Institute reported in 2015 that in the first 14 years after the 9/11 attacks, only three of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. were convicted on terrorism-related charges — two for plotting against an overseas target and the third for hatching "plans that were barely credible."
So what problem is Trump trying to solve here? Barring immigrants on the basis of religion or nationality without evidence that there is a problem is unreasonable, and in this case will provide fodder to radical Islamists arguing that the U.S. is an enemy of their faith. Rather than solving anything, Trump's showboating ban just feeds xenophobia and intolerance.