SCOTUS returns Obama-era case to lower court; provides Trump relief on travel freeze

Supreme Court

Photo of Supreme Court: SCOTUS page, U.S. Government

The Supreme Court of the United States seized the Monday news cycle as pundits and others analyzed decisions on a number of cases, two of them having to do with immigration matters.

One case originally brought by the Obama administration drew a unanimous decision at odds with the federal government’s case originating in 2013 when a federal grand jury indicted Divna Maslenjak for what amounted to lying on a federal immigration document.

The other case was more high profile, related to President Donald Trump’s temporary travel freeze on travelers and immigrants from countries where vetting is either a challenge or nonexistent. SCOTUS’ announcement today, including agreeing to hear the case, gave relief to Trump on implementing the majority of the temporary halt. 

The Maslenjak case involved a lie presented to immigration authorities about Mrs. Maslenjak’s husband’s service in the Bosnian Serb army during the presidency of Bill Clinton. The case will now go back to the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati) to consider whether Maslenjak’s falsehood was “material to her bid to gain entry.”

It appears SCOTUS is saying it’s not a lie that will get someone deported—it depends on whether the lie is material to obtaining citizenship. In my opinion, Maslenjak will likely be disappointed because it’s hard to argue she didn’t deliberately withhold the information about her husband’s military service because she believed it would be a negative. 

Ironically most media, including some I respect, are touting this ruling as a defeat for the Trump administration. In fact, the case began and progressed during the tenure of President Barack Obama.

Trump’s temporary halt on immigrants from countries where terrorist movements pose a danger to the United States will be considered in full. SCOTUS will hear the case in October, but meanwhile, the Trump administration can enforce the temporary pause for foreigners who have no connection to the United States. SCOTUS’s ruling protects students enrolled in universities, close relatives of US citizens and others in the country legally, and individuals offered jobs here. The ruling makes clear, however, the necessary relationships for entry cannot be contrived simply to get around the freeze.

It’s hard to imagine, though, that SCOTUS will nix the travel pause in October because precedent favors Trump, even by opinions of some scholars often called “liberal” like Jonathan Turley.

Thus Trump’s temporary ban via executive order will be in place for those who have no existing connection to the United States.

In writing about the executive order, some media erred by claiming the ban is now “moot” because the 90-day window has expired.

However, as Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog explained:

“[O]n June 14, Trump amended the March 6 order to specify that the bar would go into effect when the lower-court orders blocking its implementation were lifted. That change, the government argued, meant that the case was still alive, but the Supreme Court will now have the final say.”

Justice Clarence Thomas foresees trouble ahead for determining connections between those who want to come here and those already here, saying the decision “could invite a flood of litigation.” Those potential litigants will likely seek relief in the same left of center courts who attempted to kill the temporary ban completely.

(Analysis by Kay B. Day/June 26, 2017)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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