On June 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rules in favor of upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban to several Muslim countries. In their 5-4 ruling, the Justices of the Supreme Court voted to keep in place the ban that was introduced in January 2017 from an executive order of President Trump.
The travel ban applies to Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia as well as North Korea and Venezuela. In its first version in January 2017, the ban only included the first five Muslim countries. This was contended from Muslim advocacy groups as well as other states who argued that the ban discriminated on people based on their religious choices.
The state of Hawaii, individuals, and other advocacy groups sued the Trump administration stating that it was illegal to stop people from coming into the country only because they have a certain religious preference. Lower courts overturned the case, but when it now went to the Supreme Court, they upheld it.
The travel ban has gone through three revisions since its beginnings and it now includes North Korea and Venezuela, countries which do not have a Muslim majority population. The Justices of the Supreme Court argued that it was not discriminating towards a particular religion because it did not include only Muslim countries.
They cited that the language in the executive order was not geared towards a specific group of people, despite President Trump’s tweets that were calling for a ban on Muslims. The SCOTUS Justices who approved the travel ban stated that as long as the discriminatory language was not found on the bill, other language found in other mediums would not be taken into account.
The other 4 judges, on the other hand, disagreed with the ruling. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the travel ban “was driven primarily by anti-Muslim animus,” and argued that the language used by Trump in other mediums as well as speeches are proof that there is discrimination towards the particular religion.
Even though the travel ban has only now been upheld and holds legitimate power, its effects have been noticeable since its beginning in January 2017. Many experts have argued that the travel ban will discourage scholars and researchers from these countries to come to the U.S and share their educational and scientific contribution, both as students and in various conferences.
This argument has been proven true from data provided by the Department of Justice. In the first three months of 2018, only 289 visas were issued from students from Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Justice Stephen Breyer took this into account in his dissenting opinion stating that “This number is less than a quarter of the volume needed to be on track for 2016 student visa levels.”
The travel ban is expected to discourage many more students and will have the effect of isolating the U.S academic sphere from outside contributions. As Russell Harrison, the senior legislative representative for IEEE-USA in Washington DC stated “A lot of foreigners are concluding that the United States is no longer interested in people who were not born here. And that is a big problem.”