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Critic Of Travel Ban Reacts To Supreme Court's Decision To Uphold It


Why don't we go right over to the dissents? Because I believe we have a dissenting opinion, not one of the justices but someone on the losing side of the case on the line.


That's right, Steve. We're going to get some perspective from the man who challenged the travel ban. Hawaii's lieutenant governor, Douglas Chin, sued the Trump administration to stop the ban when he served as the state's attorney general. Welcome back to MORNING EDITION, Lieutenant Governor.

DOUGLAS CHIN: Thank you very much.

KING: All right. So what is your initial reaction to this decision?

CHIN: This is a troubling decision more because I don't think it's so much that the Immigration and Nationality Act exudes deference as it was that Chief Justice Roberts seemed to exude a lot of deference to the president in this case. I think what really is troubling from Justice Sotomayor's dissent was simply the fact that there were so many statements that were made by the president that he never took back when it came down to anti-Muslim statements that were made and...

KING: Calling it a Muslim ban, for example.

CHIN: Absolutely. And so, you know, really, I hurt today for not only the families that are in Hawaii that were hurt by this discrimination but also others all around the country who've experienced this kind of scapegoating due to President Trump's bullying remarks and actions.

KING: There are, of course, people who disagree with you. Earlier on the show, we heard from Republican Congressman Bill Johnson. He's a supporter of the ban, and this is what he told us.

BILL JOHNSON: This falls squarely within the scope of presidential authority. So that's essentially the ruling, Steve, is that this is a decision that the president could make or should make under the Constitution.

KING: What do you make of that statement?

CHIN: Well, I think what's difficult is that just a couple weeks ago in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case then - the justices had actually overturned a decision that was made by a very low-level civil rights commission person that were religiously biased in nature and said that because those statements were made, then the decisions that the commission made couldn't possibly be something that's taken seriously. And Justice Sotomayor really picks up on that. I think she calls them out on that issue and simply says, look; if you're going to say a couple weeks ago that you find that there's religious animus coming in striking down the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, then why aren't you finding the same thing after all the president's umpteen remarks that were made?

My goodness, I mean, there was even a statement that President Trump made last week where he referred to the entrance of people at the Mexican border and said that there's Middle Eastern people who are trying to get in through Mexico. So I don't think that President Trump has let up on those anti-Muslim statements.

INSKEEP: Lieutenant Governor, with the president's statements in mind, the court majority, Justice Roberts, argued that - or suggested it wasn't his decision alone. Whatever he may have promised in the campaign, the chief justice noted that there was a, quote, "worldwide review process" by multiple Cabinet agencies, the idea that the whole government had looked into this and looked at various countries and found countries like Yemen, for example, to be of concern or Syria.

CHIN: So you end up having these twin dissents that come from the four dissenting judges - justices. And one of them actually comes from Justice Breyer, who actually points out that there's a lot that's not quite right about this, the studies that underscore - the so-called studies that underscore this decision but also the way that the U.S. government has been applying this. They're pointing out that even though this executive order supposedly allows people to be able to come in under waivers and exemptions, those waivers and exemptions have never actually been granted. And so I think what's really difficult about this is that the studies that are supposedly being relied upon are things that the American people never saw and were hidden behind a cloud, unfortunately, of national security.

INSKEEP: I do have to push back on one fact there, Lieutenant Governor. The State Department has said that in not a lot of cases but that in several hundred cases they have granted waivers to the travel ban in various countries. It is correct that there are some remarkable cases where even mothers of small children are denied under the travel ban. But the State Department asserts there are some people who have been granted these waivers.

CHIN: Right. Well - and I think then that's where the numbers seem to speak and say something differently. So I think that's always been a concern. But in any event, what we definitely see is that you have four dissenting justices on a nine-person (inaudible) majority court that have - that are clearly troubled and bothered by what they saw today.

KING: Lieutenant Governor, you know, supporters of this ban have argued that it is temporary, that it's not meant to last forever and that if countries improve their vetting procedures, they're going to come off the list. I mean, do you envision a day when that happens, countries shape up and they come off?

CHIN: Right. I think what's difficult about that is that what we always argued was that the president did have authority to be able to suspend entry, but he didn't give any sort of end date to it. And I think what's problematic is that you have Congress that has set out this carefully reticulated scheme of how people are able to come into the country. And what the president is able to do is simply immediately stop people from entering under some sort of shallow description of national security. Yeah, without question, the majority opinion here is casting a lot of deference to the president, and that's actually something I think people in the public should just be aware of is that we have a court system right now - or excuse me - that we have a Supreme Court that is willing to offer that kind of deference.

KING: Douglas Chin is lieutenant governor of Hawaii. As attorney general, he challenged President Trump's travel ban, which the Supreme Court upheld today. Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much.

CHIN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley is still with us. And I want to clear up a fact, Scott, because earlier today on the program, there was some discussion about whether this travel ban is permanent, if there is no end date. What does the third version of this ban actually say?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It does say that countries can come off the list when they improve their vetting. And in fact, in the case of Chad, we've already seen one of the countries that was initially listed last September coming off that list because the vetting procedures have changed. Again, that goes to the question of national security.

INSKEEP: But at the same time, there's no end date. It's not a 90-day ban, a six-month ban, the way that the other versions were.

HORSLEY: No. It's an open-ended version.

INSKEEP: So it could be forever or it could be tomorrow that a country comes off that.

HORSLEY: Correct.

INSKEEP: OK. What are the political effects of a decision like this - very briefly?

HORSLEY: Well, this will certainly animate the people who are concerned about Supreme Court appointments and potential vacancies as we look to the midterms. We've seen the initial reaction from the White House. President Trump, in his favorite mode of communication on Twitter, tweets this morning. Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban. Wow. It will obviously be a discouraging decision for the people who are opponents to this travel ban and, obviously, the court itself is closely divided.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. And we do want to note another Supreme Court decision today. The court says a California law that forces anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion probably violates the Constitution. It's a 5-4 ruling that also casts doubts on similar laws in Hawaii and Illinois. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.