On Tuesday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court in a 5–4 vote that President Donald Trump’s travel ban was constitutional because it did not necessarily target immigration on the basis of race or religion. The ruling elicited a statement from President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83, and many University students are responding to the court's decision with outrage. Other students said the travel ban could positively impact national security.
The travel ban in question, , is one of many that Trump has issued since the start of his presidency. Signed by Trump on Sept. 24, 2017, the Proclamation placed restrictions on travel from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Since its signing, Chad has been removed from the list, but the travel restrictions placed on the seven other countries will now go into effect.
Trump’s travel ban has garnered significant controversy in the past year and a half, often referred to as a due to Trump’s and the fact that most of the impacted countries have majority Muslim populations. However, in the for Trump v. Hawaii, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that there was “persuasive evidence” in the travel ban case that indicated “the entry suspension has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility.”
In response to the plaintiffs’ charges that Trump has made numerous anti-Islam statements throughout his presidency that violated “fundamental standards of respect and tolerance,” Chief Justice Roberts noted that the Supreme Court’s role was to “consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself.” In the opinion, he characterized the Proclamation as “facially neutral toward religion,” thus upholding its constitutionality.
Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Samuel Alito ’72, and Justice Clarence Thomas voted that the travel ban was constitutional, while Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Elena Kagan ’81, and Justice Stephen Breyer voted against the travel ban’s constitutionality.
Mere hours after the ruling was made public on Tuesday, hundreds in front of the Supreme Court to protest the decision. That evening, President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 released a through the Office of Communications emphasizing that the University continues to stand in solidarity with its “international students, faculty and staff,” who he describes as “vital and integral part[s] of our University community.”
“The travel ban executive order inhibits this free flow of scholars and ideas and sends a chilling message not only to promising and law-abiding individuals from the affected regions, but also to students and scholars from around the world who want to contribute to an open and welcoming society,” the statement reads. “We are proud to welcome talent from around the world and will defend the vital role that immigration plays at Princeton, in higher education and in our country.”
Additionally, numerous University students have expressed outrage in response to the Supreme Court ruling, including June Philippe ’20, who previously discussed her experiences with privilege on campus as a Haitian-American immigrant in a last year.
“Here in a vacuum of privilege and knowledge, I was and continue to be assaulted by the truths of our nation and the impact of elitist ideologies,” Philippe wrote in a statement for The Daily Princetonian. “This 90 day ban might not seem that impactful to [University students], but for people living in violent nations of uncertainty, this is life and death.”
A member of Students for Prison Education and Reform, Michaela Daniel ’21 also attributed the Supreme Court decision to a precedent of privilege and discrimination.
“It has declared this poorly disguised targeted discrimination as lawful under the Constitution: a constitution made by a similarly flawed group of racist and wealthy individuals who failed to realize the value in diversity,” Daniel said. “This is exactly who America has always been: one who mistakenly assumes that its laws are equivalent with justice.”
Despite the Supreme Court’s assertion that the travel ban does not enable racial animus, some students find the politicization of immigration to be disheartening and dangerous to both domestic and foreign people of color.
Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity co-president and Muslim Students Association vice president Yousef Elzalabany ’20 pointed out in a statement to the ‘Prince’ that the travel ban and the increased presence of Immigration Customs Enforcement in the past few years are indicative of a larger trend toward disenfranchising vulnerable populations for the sake of national security.
“I think the basic human dignity of any individual, regardless of citizenship status, should never be in question,” Elzalabany wrote. “If one's political leanings prevent them from believing in the dignity of all individuals or compel them to support policies that undermine that dignity in the name of law and order, then there is a huge moral issue with which we have to contend, and bipartisanship should take a backseat to the priority of ensuring human dignity.”
For some students, including Princeton College Democrats vice president and Muslim Students Association executive board member Shafaq Khan ’21, the Supreme Court’s ruling has also raised questions about identity for Muslim-Americans.
“What exactly is the place of Muslims in society?” Khan asked. “Why aren't we protected to the same extent as people of other faiths?”
Khan admitted that the Supreme Court decision has caused her to “question [her] identity as a Muslim-American.”
“I do believe I can be unapologetically Muslim in much of American society, especially when interacting with an accepting community,” Khan said. “However, it's crazy to then realize that such a large portion of American society feels animosity towards people of my faith. And a lot of this animosity stems from the fact that they've never met or interacted with a Muslim.”
History professor and CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer published a on June 28 discussing the implications of Trump and the Supreme Court’s travel ban decision and how bipartisanship has shaped the current U.S. state of affairs.
“If Democrats were thinking that President Trump's blistering rhetoric about undocumented immigrants was just talk, they now know just how far the President is willing to go,” wrote Zelizer. “He is very serious about closing the borders and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his travel ban will embolden him.”
Zelizer did not respond to request from the ‘Prince’ for comment at the time of this article’s publication.
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ history professor Beth Lew-Williams, who specializes in migration and Asian-American history, expressed bemusement over the Supreme Court’s decisions to overrule the Japanese internment case of Korematsu v. U.S. (1944), yet to uphold the travel ban, which Lew-Williams pointed out to be strikingly similarly to Chae Chan Ping v. U.S. (1889), a case that upheld the Chinese Exclusion Act.
“It’s worth noting that the majority opinion in Trump v. Hawaii holds particular irony in relation to Asian American history,” Lew-Williams wrote. “Today’s court was ready to denounce the past injustice of imprisoning Japanese Americans, but it seems far from ready to confront America’s discriminatory immigration policies.”
Politics professor and Robert George is another University figure who has been outspoken in the past about Trump’s immigration policies. In an interview with National Catholic Register on July 19, 2017, George explained that he had originally opposed Trump’s presidential candidacy and found his immigration policies to be particularly concerning in the context of religious freedom.
“I have criticized as unnecessary his policy on pausing immigration from certain countries, and I have criticized as weak to the point of meaningless his executive order on religious freedom,” George said. “Indeed, I characterized it as a betrayal of his promise to reverse Obama era anti-religious-liberty policies.”
George did not respond to request from the ‘Prince’ for comment at the time of this article’s publication.
Although the majority of students interviewed by the ‘Prince’ denounced the Supreme Court ruling, some point out that the ruling’s benefits for national security are deeply impactful.
Princeton College Republicans vice president Nicholas Sileo ’20 expressed support for the Supreme Court’s decision, noting in an email to the ‘Prince’ that it is the U.S. government’s “right and responsibility to ensure safety, justice, and liberty for all Americans.”
“It is good to see that the Supreme Court is dedicated to upholding the Constitution and protecting the rights of American citizens,” Sileo wrote. “The countries identified for travel restrictions by this executive order are either sworn enemies of the United States or are in states of anarchy and chaos.”
Princeton College Republicans president Will Crawford ’20 echoed Sileo’s sentiments in a statement for the ‘Prince.’
“The Supreme Court was right to uphold President Trump's travel ban in its decision last week,” Crawford wrote. “The policy lies plainly within the scope of the statutory authority delegated to him by the Congress and more broadly within the deference given to presidential prerogatives in matters of national security.”
Crawford also pointed out that despite the “problematic implementation and Trump’s rhetoric,” the Supreme Court made the decision purely on the basis of constitutionality.
“To any halfway objective observer, it is [constitutional],” Crawford added.
Prior to the Proclamation, the first travel ban was , issued on Jan. 27, 2017, and which, among other restrictions, suspended entry of immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for a 90-day period. The Executive Order cited the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a prime example of the need for increased national security by limiting the number of refugees from countries “detrimental to the interests of the United States” to 50,000 during the 2017 fiscal year.
The second travel ban, , was issued on Mar. 6, 2017, and superseded Executive Order 13769. Described by Trump as a “watered down, politically correct version” of the previous travel ban, Executive Order 13780 restricted travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, removing Iraq from the list due to steps made by the Iraqi government “to enhance travel documentation, information sharing, and the return of Iraqi nationals subject to final orders of removal.”