Is President Trump’s EO On Refugees and Visas Legal? Nolan Rappaport of The Hill Says The Statutory Authority Is Clear, If “Clumsily Executed” — Professor David Cole Of Georgetown Law Says It’s Unconstitutional!

Nolan points to section 212(f) of the INA:

“The president’s authority to declare such suspensions can been found in section 212(f) of the INA, the pertinent part of which reads as follows:

‘(f) Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.’
The 90-day suspension can be waived on a case-by-case basis.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has applied this waiver to the entry of lawful permanent residents. He has stated that, “absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.

. . . .

A federal judge has granted an emergency stay request from the American Civil Liberties Union to bar the deportation of people with valid visas who landed in the U.S. after the EO was issued.

Frankly, I do not understand this judge’s order. The issuance of a visa does not guarantee an alien’s admission into the United States. In fact, this is explicitly stated on the State Department’s Frequently Asked Questions site About Visas – The Basics.

“After I have my visa, I will be able to enter the U.S., correct?
“A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry, and the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector authorizes or denies admission to the United States.”
Nevertheless, it is apparent that the EO will inconvenience many people who are coming here for legitimate purposes, and that is unfortunate.

On the other hand, it also is apparent that President Trump did not exceed his statutory authority over alien admissions with the directives in the EO, and that he issued it to protect the United States and its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States.

But was it the best way to accomplish that objective?”

Read Nolan’s full article in The Hill here:

David argues that the EO is clearly unconstitutional:

“According to the Supreme Court, “the clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.” Larson v. Valente, 456 US. 228, 244 (1982). But that command is apparently not clear enough for President Donald Trump. On Friday he signed an Executive Order on refugees that imposes a selective ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, and at the same time establishes preferential treatment for refugees seeking asylum who are identified with “minority religions” in their country of origin. In case there was any doubt about the latter provision’s intent, Trump told Christian Broadcast News that it was intended to give priority to “Christians” seeking asylum over “Muslims.”

In both respects, the Executive Order violates the “clearest command of the Establishment Clause.” First, as I developed in an earlier post, the Constitution bars the government from targeting Islam. One of the lowest of many low moments in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was his December 2015 call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration. The proposal treated as presumptively suspect a religion practiced by about 1.6 billion people worldwide, nearly a quarter of the globe’s population. Trump soon retreated to talk of “extreme vetting,” but never gave up his focus on the religio of Islam. Friday’s executive orders are of a piece with his many anti-Muslim campaign promises.”

Read David’s full article in Just Security here:


I see Nolan’s point. But, statutory authority doesn’t necessarily mean it’s constitutional.

On David’s constitutional question, Federal Courts have been willing to intervene at times to protect due process rights of individuals who are physically present in the United States, particularly those who have green cards. The Administration’s ill-thought-out, confusing, and initially heavy handed (or “clumsy” in Nolan’s words) implementation of the EO gave opponents a golden opportunity to score some early temporary victories in cases involving green card holders and others who had valid visas or refugee admission documents at the time the embarked for the United States.

But, beyond that, the EO falls at the intersection of immigration law, foreign policy, and national security, three subjects on which the Federal Courts traditionally have been reluctant to challenge the Executive’s authority. Courts have historically been reluctant to review the Executive’s exercise of authority beyond U.S. territory.  For example, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Executive’s authority to engage in “high seas interdiction” of Haitian migrants even though it appeared to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the Refugee Act of 1980 and the U.N. Convention and Protocol on the Status of Refugees. Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc., 509 U.S. 155 (1993).

Up until 1965, the U.S. immigration laws blatantly discriminated on the basis of race and national origins. The Supreme Court never held any of those provisions unconstitutional. In fact, it was Congress, not the Supreme Court, which forced the 1965 changes to make the law more equitable.

And, leaving aside the legal and national security policy issues, the politics of this situation are far from clear. The initial NBC-4-DC poll (presumably from the DC Metro viewing area) showed 62% of respondents opposed the President’s order. By contrast, the initial Quinnipiac nationwide poll showed 48% to 42% support for the controversial Executive Order. Perhaps, President Trump is on stronger ground politically than the many nationwide protests and fierce reaction against his Executive Order would indicate.