Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the third version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which suspends the issuing of immigrant and non-immigrant visas to citizens of Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela. Student visas weren’t included in the ban, but a university official said the ban will affect American universities’ international outreach and exchange students.
The Court affirmed the legality of the executive order in a 5-4 decision. The first two proposed bans were struck down by lower courts and faced resistance on the basis that the ban targeted Muslim immigrants.
The Court majority concluded that the executive order was not a targeted Muslim ban because the administration was willing to make exceptions and expand the order to include non-Muslim majority countries like North Korea and Venezuela to the list of countries.
In the executive order, each country will be held to different restrictions.
“For all of them, except North Korea, student visas weren’t part of the ban, but for several of them, it does specifically say ‘but scrutiny should be given to visas that are not outright excluded,’’’ said Jean Robinson, director of International Programs at UM.
Even though student visa applications would be accepted under the immigration policy, Robinson said visas will still face more scrutiny, even prior to entering the United States.
“Even before getting to the airport, at the U.S. Consulate and just applying for the visa that gets placed in the passport,” Robinson said.
According to Robinson, these restrictions will be additionally hard for Iranian citizens, who she said already faced scrutiny and restrictions prior to the ban. She said because there isn’t a U.S. Consulate in Iran, citizens will have to travel to another country to apply for a visa.
“So, for someone from Iran, that was in existence even before this executive order, but it adds that extra statement of scrutiny,” Robinson said.
Robinson said visas for family members could be brought to a halt considering that visitor visas were specifically mentioned the executive order.
“There is language in the executive order on issuing visas, not necessarily being canceled, but if this is a new student, and their relative had not already had a visa, they wouldn’t be able to go and apply for a new visa,” Robinson said.
Charles E. Yow, an immigration lawyer in Oxford, shared his legal opinion on the Supreme Court’s decision.
Yow said he thought one good thing did come out of the Trump vs. Hawaii case. He said the ruling formally struck down Korematsu v. United States, a ruling which upheld the forcible detention of Japanese Americans in concentration camps because of race in 1944. The majority and dissenting judges concurred on this.
“This case was wrong when it was decided and is still wrong, but the case was never struck down by the Supreme Court during the intervening 74 years,” Yow said.
Yow also said the Court correctly held that the President does have power to act to protect the national security of the country under the Constitution of the United States.
“This authority has been invoked by presidents of both political parties including President Carter who denied entry to and cancelled all visas for Iranians and President Reagan who banned all Cuban immigrant entry to the United States,” Yow said.
However, Yow said he had serious concerns with the majority judges’ deference provided to the Executive branch in cases, where as Justice Sotomayor stated, empowering “the President to hide behind an administrative review process that the Government refuses to disclose to the public.”
“There should be no circumstance where human rights are restricted and the government is allowed to hang its hat on an argument that the public doesn’t have a need to know,” Yow said. “We can handle the truth, and restrictions on fundamental human rights should face the highest scrutiny.”
Yow’s clients, for the most part, will not be affected by the ban he said, because they are already in the United States. As an immigration lawyer, Yow has helped people from various backgrounds, and recently helped some Christians escape persecution in the Middle East.
“I do have clients who are are from Iran, and, unfortunately, they will very likely suffer what I expect to be a brief delay in their family members’ visa applications,” Yow said.