Here’s the Court’s complete “per curiam” (unsigned) opinion with separate concurring and dissenting opinion by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, & Alito:
The Supreme Court handed the Trump Administration at least a partial victory on the controversial “Travel Ban 2.0” which had been enjoined by the Ninth and Fourth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. The Court: 1) granted the petitions for certiorari filed by the Solicitor General in behalf of the Trump Administration and scheduled the case for Oral Argument at the beginning of the October 2017 Term; and 2) granted in part the Solicitor General’s request to stay the lower courts’ injunctions pending review.
However, in partially lifting the injunctions, the Court left in effect a significant part of those injunctions: the Travel Ban may not be applied to a) “foreign nationals who have a [pre-existing] credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” and b) “an individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
The dissent would have stayed all parts of the lower courts’ injunctions. Justice Thomas, joined by Justices Alito and Gorsuch, criticized the majority for having cerated a non-statutory category of individuals who can “credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” He fears that the meaning of these exceptions will itself become a fertile ground of additional litigation before the Court can resolve the merits of these cases.
Additionally, the Court noted that since the bar on internal review of procedures relating to visa issuance was lifted on June 14, 2017, and the Government has represented that the review will be completed within 90 days, the case with respect to visa issuance to non-refugees might well be moot before the Court can get to the merits. The court instructs the parties to brief that issue.
The Trump Administration can legitimately view this as a much-needed (from their standpoint) victory. All nine Justices appear to be prepared to rule that the Executive has virtually unbridled authority to bar the admission, at least temporarily, of foreign nationals with no connections to the United States.
It also appears that Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito would find that the Executive’s essentially unreviewable authority extends even to individuals who have a connection with the United States.
However, those challenging the Travel Ban have some reason to hope because at least six Justices seem to remain open to the possibility of engaging in some type of meaningful judicial review of Executive decisions regarding foreign nationals abroad who have established some connections to the U.S.
There may also be mootness issues with respect to some or all of the injunction with respect to refugee admissions. The new fiscal year for refugee admissions begins on October 1, 2017, before the Court will have heard argument in these cases. Before the beginning of the fiscal year, the Trump Administration must under the Refugee Act of 1980 “consult” with Congress on the number and allocation of refugee admissions for fiscal year 2018. “Statutory consultation” was one of the things that the Trump Administration neglected to do before purporting to suspend refugee admissions and dramatically slash the number of fiscal year 2017 refugee admissions established by the Obama Administration after undertaking the required statutory consultation.
The lack of any reasonable rationale by the Trump Administration for reversing the prior statutory determination made by the the Obama Administration after consultation with Congress was cited by the Ninth Circuit in upholding the original injunction. But, that issue should also be moot before the Court decides theses cases on the merits.