This case pits two important constitutional concerns against each other. The president has the power to safeguard America’s national security. But the First Amendment guarantees that people won’t face discrimination based on their religious beliefs. The Court will have to decide on the scope of presidential power.
“It’s one of the most important cases about religious liberty that the Supreme Court has ever heard,” says David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a legal think tank in Washington, D.C. “It poses the question: Can the president write religious discrimination into our immigration laws?”
The case stems from an executive order that President Trump issued with the intention of shutting down travel to the U.S. from six majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. It banned travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order also temporarily blocked the entry of refugees from any nation.
Trump said the order was necessary. He said the Department of Homeland Security needed time to check and address problems in the review process for visitors from countries it considers dangerous.
“We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” Trump said.
The travel ban has its roots in a presidential campaign promise. In December 2015, then-candidate Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration. His position centered on the threat posed by terrorist groups such as ISIS. Earlier that month, a Muslim-American gunman killed 14 people at an office party in San Bernardino, California. He claimed to have acted on behalf of ISIS. Trump’s proposal resonated with many Americans who were increasingly fearful about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.