The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it would review the latest version of President Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries, an issue that has been watched closely by colleges and universities but also has some implications for K-12 schools.
Many legal observers believe the case of Trump v. Hawaii (No. 17-965) involves a major clash over presidential powers. At issue is the third version of a policy the president issued in his first week in office, which was implemented chaotically and led to protests at U.S. airports as arriving visitors from the affected countries were turned around and sent home by immigration officials.
The Supreme Court had agreed to take up the second version of the president’s executive order, but it expired and the justices dropped the case from their docket. The third version, issued in September, built on version two and is meant to be permanent.
The third version applies to travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. It also applies to two non-Muslim countries—North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.
The challenge to the third version led by the state of Hawaii did not include North Korea or Venezuela. Both a federal district court in Hawaii and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked the policy and held that the president likely exceeded his authority under immigration law and the policy likely involves illegal discrimination based on nationality.
The 9th Circuit did not rule on the question of whether the policy violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion based on Trump’s various anti-Muslim statements. But another federal appeals court had so ruled with respect to version two of the policy, and the Supreme Court said it would consider that question as part of its review.
In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the Trump administration said the third version of the policy responds to multiple federal agencies’ findings “that a handful of countries have deficient information-sharing practices or other factors that prevent the government from assessing the risk their nationals pose to the United States.”
“The courts below have overridden the president’s judgments on sensitive matters of national security and foreign relations, and severely restricted the ability of this and future presidents to protect the nation,” said the appeal signed by U.S. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco.
In their high court brief, the challengers say, “The president has issued a proclamation, without precedent in this nation’s history, that purports to ban over 150 million aliens from [these countries] based on nationality alone.”
“The immigration laws do not grant the president this power: Congress has delegated him only a measure of its authority to exclude harmful aliens or respond to exigencies, and it has expressly prohibited discrimination based on nationality,” the brief says.
The implications for education are in the area of visas for students, faculty, and speakers from the affected countries, although the current policy makes some exceptions for non-immigrant students. Numerous colleges, as well as the American Federation of Teachers, had filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the 9th Circuit supporting the challengers.
In December, the justices voted 7-2 to lift a stay on the policy, letting it take full affect.
Arguments in the case are expected in April, with a decision by the end of June.
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.