Rebuking Trump, U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Suspension of Muslim Travel Ban
Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vince Warren says the court rejected arguments Trump’s actions are beyond judicial review
The following transcript has not been proofread. The proofread version will be published as soon as it becomes available.
JAISAL NOOR: President Trump handed another defeat. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday, unanimously upholding a lower Court’s decision to block Trump’s controversial Executive Order that temporarily banned travelers from seven Muslim majority countries and all refugees. The ruling is a relief to those from those affected areas in Africa and the Middle East and extends a window for them to enter the US. The question is — how long will that window stay open, as the case is now likely headed to the US Supreme Court? We’re joined by Center for Constitutional Rights, Executive Director, Vince Warren. Vince thanks so much for joining us.
VINCE WARREN: Thank you.
JAISAL NOOR: And give us your reaction to this ruling.
VINCE WARREN: Well, it’s a tremendous ruling and it’s a great sigh of relief, I think, for those of us who were wondering how the Courts were going to be standing up to this almost unprecedented Presidential power grab. I think there were some significant things in this ruling. I mean, one thing that’s important to note, just from a legal perspective is that the Court did not reach what, I think, most people feel is the most important issue the First Amendment, Freedom of Religion establishment is claimed that said this was a religiously based Muslim travel ban. The Court didn’t reach it largely because the Court didn’t have to. And Courts will sometimes do that. What the Court did do, is it said that when the Trump government was moving to get rid of the stay that had been issued by a lower Court in Washington, the Court said no that stay stays in effect essentially. There was an emergency Motion brought by the Trump Administration to try to get that reversed. And the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal said no they weren’t going to do it. And there were a couple of really interesting pieces in there. Number one, is there was a question in the argument where the Trump Administration said, that essentially, this Executive Order by President Trump, which created a Muslim ban from seven countries, and in that Executive Order heightened the abilities essentially, or created an exception for Christians to come into the country, that that Order was not reviewable by any Federal Court. And it wasn’t reviewable because the President’s authority, what we call plenary authority, over issues of immigration and what the Court did, was push back on that very, very significantly. And that was important. The Court said that it was outside of the bounds of the way our democracy is constructed to even make the argument that Federal Courts could not review Presidential decisions. And in fact, one of the lead cases that they cited was a CCR case that we had before the Supreme Court called, “Bermedian(?) vs. Bush” which was challenging congressional stripping of habeas corpus for men in Guantanamo. So, what’s significant about that is that it’s a huge blow to the Trump Administration certainly but in some weird way we’re still back to where we were in the Bush Administration where we were having these same arguments whether the President could do whatever he wants to do with respect to our civil rights, civil liberties and due process rights. The good news is that the Court really rejected that today.
JAISAL NOOR: And so, this is at least a temporary victory. At the same time this is happening today, Donald Trump released a number of Executive Orders empowering law enforcement to deal with what he says is a, you know, record number of killings of police officers. And also, he’s been carrying out deportations, you know, of people that have been here for decades and have children here who are US citizens. So, kind of put this in the context of the moment we’re in right now, we’re just barely a month into Donald Trump’s presidency and we’ve seen all these, what you would probably say are, civil rights, human rights violations happening already.
VINCE WARREN: Oh, absolutely. It’s quite unprecedented. The way that we feel about it here is that we’ve had probably what feels like eight years of the George Bush in about two weeks. And you know, specifically, one of the things I wanted to highlight about the significance of the Muslim ban and why it’s important the Courts pushed back against it, is it’s the real people that are involved in this. So, the Center for Constitutional Rights, we filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security and we were complaining about the way that Customs and Border Patrol treated people when this Muslim ban hit. And so, we tell stories of real people, of a doctor from Somalia who came to JFK through Saudi Arabia, where she was visiting family. She was basically coming back to the US. She was trapped. She was detained. She was not allowed to see her lawyers. They refused to let her see her lawyers. They lied to her and said that even as the ban was being lifted, or being stayed, that it was only the Supreme Court that would let her go. That wasn’t going to happen, so she had to sign a paper that was giving up the status that the government had given her; sent her back to Saudi Arabia. An elderly couple in California, in their ’70’s and ’80’s, who were held for 18 hours without food, not allowed to see lawyers, not allowed to see family or friends, even after the ban was lifted. This is the way that our government begins to function when Donald Trump begins to tweet and say these kinds of crazy things. Which brings us to what was happening today and I’m glad that you asked me about it. There were three Executive Orders that related to criminal issues. And two of them were really problematic. One was, essentially one that calls for stiffer penalties and maybe even new criminal sanctions for assaults of police officers. And what that really is, is what we’re calling sort of the new “Blue Lives Matter” Bill. We’re seeing this in a lot of different States. I believe there are like nine pending Bills that essentially make it a crime or added penalty in people are disrespecting or otherwise assaulting police officers. And while nobody thinks it’s a good idea to assault police officers, it is very problematic go give police officers special status, along the lines of your race, your gender, your ethnicity, your sexuality. If somebody beats you up because of that, there are enhanced penalties. They’re trying to pull in these enhanced penalties with respect to the police officers. With respect to another Bill, I was really struck by the narrative. The Executive Order called for a reduction of crime and for restoration of public safety. Now, there are two big problems with this. One is that it assumes that crime has been going up; when everybody knows that crime has been going down steadily for 30 years. New York City, where we ended stop and frisk had the lowest murder rate and violent crime rate in decades, just reported, you know, a very short time ago. The other problem with it is that what does it mean to restore public safety? It almost assumes that public safety has disappeared and that we need an Executive Order to do it. Those are two problematic framings. But what was most problematic about it for me was it called for the newly-appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions to appoint a Commission to look at penalties and reducing crimes in two particular areas. One was violent crime, and nobody has a problem with reducing violent crime. But the Executive Order also talked about being illegally in the United States as a crime. And this is a new thing. Anytime that you have an Executive Order that has reducing violent crimes and reducing people that “illegal”, it begins to merge this question of your status. So, what I’m concerned about and what we all should be thinking about is — are we seeing a situation where we’re now beginning to see people’s status as undocumented being itself a criminal activity that is subject to criminal punishment, that’s subject to criminal trials and criminal incarceration; as opposed to the way that it’s been for very many years, where these are civil penalties? You can get deported, you can get detained during a hearing, both of which are problematic the way that it’s being done under President Obama and other folks, certainly. But now we’re seeing that there’s a conflation between violent crimes and being undocumented — that’s something that we should be really worried about.
JAISAL NOOR: Alright, Vince, there’s a lot more to talk about here, but we’re going to let you get on your way. Thanks so much for joining us.
VINCE WARREN: Thank you, it’s a pleasure.
JAISAL NOOR: Thank you for joining us at The Real News Network.