US Supreme Court’s last argument is over Trump travel ban

The travel ban is the first Trump policy to undergo a full-blown US Supreme Court review. (AP)
Updated 25 April 2018

US Supreme Court’s last argument is over Trump travel ban

  • The travel ban is the first Trump policy to undergo a full-blown Supreme Court review
  • A decision in Trump v. Hawaii, 17-965, is expected by late June

WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court is saving one of its biggest cases for last. The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday over President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from several mostly Muslim countries.
It’s the last case the justices will hear until October.
The Trump administration is asking the court to reverse lower court rulings striking down the ban. The policy has been fully in effect since December, but this is the first time the justices are considering whether it violates immigration law or the Constitution.
The court will consider whether the president can indefinitely keep people out of the country based on nationality. It will also look at whether the policy is aimed at excluding Muslims from the United States.
People have been waiting in line for a seat for days. In another sign of heightened public interest, the court is taking the rare step of making an audio recording of the proceedings available just hours after the arguments end. The last time was the gay marriage arguments in 2015.
The travel ban is the first Trump policy to undergo a full-blown Supreme Court review. The justices are looking at the third version of a policy that Trump first rolled out a week after taking office, triggering chaos and protests across the US as travelers were stopped from boarding international flights and detained at airports for hours. The first version was blocked by courts and withdrawn. Its replacement was allowed to take partial effect but expired in September.
The current version is indefinite and now applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries: blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. A sixth majority Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list this month after improving “its identity-management and information sharing practices,” Trump said in a proclamation.
Trump’s campaign pledge to shut down Muslim entry into the US, his presidential tweets about the travel ban and last fall’s retweets of inflammatory videos that stoked anti-Islam sentiment all could feature in the justices’ questioning of Solicitor General Noel Francisco, defending the ban, and Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama. Katyal is representing the challengers.
The administration has argued that courts have no role to play because the president has broad powers over immigration and national security, and foreigners have no right to enter the country. Francisco also has said in written arguments that Trump’s September proclamation laying out the current policy comports with immigration law and does not violate the Constitution because it does not single out Muslims.
The challengers, backed by a diverse array of supporting legal briefs, have said that Trump is flouting immigration law by trying to keep more than 150 million people, the vast majority of them Muslim, from entering the country. They also argue that it amounts to the Muslim ban that Trump called for as a candidate, violating the Constitution’s prohibition against religious bias.
A decision in Trump v. Hawaii, 17-965, is expected by late June.


Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

Updated 30 min 24 sec ago

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

  • Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march
  • The protests had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks

HONG KONG: Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park, but later spilled onto the streets in violation of police orders.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armored jeep, but was not used.
Organizers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.