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The Supreme Court has given the President the power to discriminate against foreigners based on religious or ethnic background, says Ibraham Qatabi, of the Center for Constitutional Rights

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GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert. With a five to four conservative majority, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major new ruling on Tuesday, declaring President Trump’s Muslim travel ban to be legal. Right after assuming office last year, President Trump had issued an executive order banning citizens from six predominantly Muslim nations from coming to the United States. The first Muslim travel ban, as it came to be known, was immediately blocked by the courts. Trump rewrote it and submitted a second version which never really went into effect before expiring. A third version, though, was signed last September. It too was challenged, but eventually did go into effect last December While the Supreme Court took its legality into consideration.

Trump administration attorneys argued that the ban was not specifically directed against Muslims, which would be illegal, but against countries with suspected terrorists and whose visitors could not be properly vetted before coming to the United States. Joining me now to discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling on Trump’s travel ban is Ibraham Qatabi. Ibraham is a Yemeni-American political analyst and human rights advocate. Also, he is a senior legal worker at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Thanks for joining us today.

IBRAHAM QATABI: Thanks for having me.

GREG WILPERT: So, clearly the court’s majority decided not to take Trump’s statements on banning Muslims from entering the United States seriously. The ruling was based entirely on arguments that were contained within the executive order. Before I get your reaction to this approach, here are a few clips of Trump talking about the importance of banning Muslims from entering the United States.

DONALD TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on. There is a great hatred toward Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. There’s no reason to apologize. Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster. They are laughed at all over the world. They are laughed at for their stupidity and we have to have strong immigration laws.

GREG WILPERT: So, what’s your reaction to the court majority’s approach? Would it have been illegitimate to consider Trump’s motivation behind the ban, even as the travel ban itself does not mention Muslims?

IBRAHAM QATABI: Well, first of all, today the Supreme Court decision is a devastating judicial historic mistake. As we know, it’s no longer about the Trump’s statement, it is about the facts. Today, Muslim communities across the world and families of U.S. citizens are impacted by the Trump’s Muslim ban. So, we are no longer taking the Trump’s statements into account, but we are taking into account the facts. And the facts are, Trump are banning kids and children and spouses of U.S. citizens, so we’re no longer talking- we’re now suspending the rights of U.S. citizens.

And so, there’s a complete Muslim ban in place targeted, like I said, Muslim communities and marginalized groups including Yemeni Americans, a group that I’m a part of. We went to Djibouti, we documented dozens of people who were banned as a result of the Muslim ban. The embassy would not even look at their records. They were not even given waivers or any consideration, and these are kids of a U.S. Citizen they’re not threat to national security, they’re not a threat to anything in the U.S. And so, they’ve been banned only because of their religious beliefs and nationalities. This is a clear violation.

You know, the Supreme Court in the past had made major mistakes by allowing former presidents and administrations to take, for example, the Japanese American into camps, and other racial issues like equal but separate, would allow the schools- not allowing white students with Black students to be mixed. So, today is another sad day for the rule of law, for the Constitution, for minorities in America, where now people from certain groups are not allowed to bring their family members. But others from Europe or somewhere else are allowed just because of their skin color. So, today’s a blow up to the Constitution. It’s a major mistake by the Supreme Court, allowing a discriminatory ban against Muslims and minorities.

GREG WILPERT: You mentioned the issues of fact, and apparently the court simply did not take questions of fact into account. Another issue, for example, is that if one were to look at the nationalities of those who carried out the only successful attack on U.S. soil, Trump would have had to ban citizens from Saudi Arabia, since that’s where the majority of the 9/11 perpetrators came from. But Saudi Arabia is not on the list of citizens who are banned from entering the United States.

So, I’m wondering, shouldn’t- I mean, they seem to have made the argument really on a kind of legalistic grounds, and I’m wondering to what extent do you think that that the Supreme Court could have and should have taken precisely these kinds of facts into consideration? That is, do children, for example as you mentioned, or do people who never have any relationship with terrorism, should those kinds of facts not have played a role in this decision or is it purely a legal decision, and that’s all that one could make?

IBRAHAM QATABI: First of all, I think that the court order today suspended my own rights as an American citizen. My family’s been here, I’m a fourth generation Yemeni-American. Now, I cannot bring my immediate family members, my family members cannot bring their spouses or children who happened to be born overseas or are living overseas. So, that’s a clear violation of the existing immigration policies. This has nothing to do with national security, this has to do with a clear discrimination. And Trump had made it clear that this was his intent, and he carried it now in a policy way. We’ve seen thousands of Yemeni-American families being banned and given massive denials and Djibouti and elsewhere.

These people have been waiting to rejoin their families in the U.S. for over a decade, some of them. I met people who their parents applied for them close to 17 years ago and are still now being completely banned, after even they were given the initial approvals to join their families so, the issue of national security, it’s a lie, given that most of these individuals that are trying to join their parents in the U.S. are children, five years old, seven years old. How could someone who was five years old be a threat to the U.S.?

The other part of it, these are not new immigrants that are trying just to come into America, seeking like a better life, but these are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. And so, under the existing law, they’re allowed to join their family members. Now that court has given Trump a blanket check to basically discriminate against people of color, discriminate against Muslims, and that’s clearly what’s happening today. So, it’s not about national security, it’s not about the rule of law, it’s about giving someone the power to basically discriminate against minorities.

And I think this is a serious mistake by the Supreme Court today, and now it’s up to the Congress and to people to decide who to vote in and out in the next election, and to basically advocate at Congress to strike down this illegal and unconstitutional Muslim ban. As we see right now, it’s a clear violation that I, as a U.S. citizen, cannot bring my immediate family because of my religious background or my ethnicity. This is a clear violation, and we need to take it up and knock it out just like we did with what happened to the Japanese Americans and Black America. So, this is the new mistake that needs to be corrected.

GREG WILPERT: You know, actually that’s something else I was going to mention, specifically involving the Japanese Americans. An interesting element in the court’s decision was that for the first time in over seventy years, did the Supreme Court reverse the ruling of Korematsu versus the United States, in which a court had declared, back in 1944, that internment of Japanese Americans is constitutional. What do you make of this current court’s split decision, where on national security grounds, it is not okay to send Japanese Americans into concentration camps, but it is okay to ban Muslims from entering the United States? Doesn’t this seem as a somewhat contradictory decision?

IBRAHAM QATABI: Yeah, I mean it’s clear what’s happening today. You know, the president might have the power to protect the nation, but he should not be given the power to discriminate against minorities. Today we repeat the same mistake that happened in the past, a shameful era within America’s history with regards to the Japanese Americans and Black Americans. So, today we’re repeating the same mistake and the same discriminatory policies when it comes to Muslim America. And so, this is the problem. If we allow the court to continue the way it is, then we’re going back to the 60s and to the 70s, where discrimination was part of the Supreme Court’s sort of ruling.

And I think we, in 2018, need to resist, need to push back. And we shouldn’t just sit down there and quiet. We need to mobilize. We need to stand against these kind of discriminatory rulings that allow the government to basically sanction minorities, to target marginalized groups, to basically suspend the rights of a class of U.S. citizens and give it to other classes of U.S. citizens. This is like, this is about the Constitution, and I think the Constitution today was violated. It’s a sad day for America, a sad day for democracy, a sad day for justice, for equality, for equal protection that we all, under the Constitution, have. And today, some of us don’t have those equal protections under the Constitution, where the government is allowed now to target minorities and to not allow certain U.S. citizens to be reunited with their loved ones and children.

So, this is a big, major mistake that needs to be corrected, and I think obviously we didn’t seem to learn from the past and now it is up to the people within the United States to protest, to mobilize, to stand out and vote those who are now in power. I think it’s clear that we have racist leaders of this country right now from the White House all the way down. And so, we need to, America needs to correct this this era and this major mistake that took place today by the Supreme Court, giving Trump’s the right to basically ban U.S. families of U.S. citizens.

GREG WILPERT: Okay. Well, on that note we’re going to have to leave it there for now. I was speaking to Ibraham Qatabi, senior legal worker at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Thanks for having joined us today, Ibraham.

IBRAHAM QATABI: Thanks a lot, thanks for having me.

GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network. Also, if you like stories such as this one, I want to remind you that we recently started our summer fundraiser and need your help to reach our goal of raising two hundred thousand dollars. Every dollar that you donate will be matched. Unlike practically all other news outlets, we do not accept support from governments or corporations. Please do what you can today.

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Gregory Wilpert is Managing Editor at TRNN. He is a German-American sociologist who earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University in 1994. Between 2000 and 2008 he lived in Venezuela, where he first taught sociology at the Central University of Venezuela and then worked as a freelance journalist, writing on Venezuelan politics for a wide range of publications and also founded, an English-langugage website about Venezuela. In 2007 he published the book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government (Verso Books). In 2014 he moved to Quito, Ecuador, to help launch teleSUR English. In early 2016 he began working for The Real News Network as host, researcher, and producer. Since September 2018 he has been working as Managing Editor at The Real News. Gregory's wife worked as a Venezuelan diplomat since 2008 and from January 2015 until October 2018 she was Venezuela's Ambassador to Ecuador.