FoxNews.com - The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Trump’s controversial travel ban affecting several mostly Muslim countries, offering a limited endorsement of the president’s executive authority in one of the hardest-fought battles of this term.
The 5-4 ruling marks the first major high court decision on a Trump administration policy. It upholds the selective travel restrictions, which critics called a discriminatory “Muslim ban” but the administration argued was needed for security reasons.
At issue was whether the third and latest version of the administration's policies affecting visitors from five majority Muslim nations – known as travel ban 3.0 -- discriminates on the basis of nationality and religion, in the government's issuance of immigrant visas.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the order was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority” under federal law.
The ruling comes after the Trump administration seemed to enjoy a favorable reception during arguments in April.
Justice Samuel Alito, during those April arguments, noted that of the 50 or so mostly Muslim majority countries, only five were on the current banned list, or about 8 percent of the population, he said.
The ruling was being closely watched for its implications for the limits of executive power, especially within the immigration context.
The justices had allowed the current restrictions to be enforced at the Justice Department's request, at least until the case was fully litigated.
Sixteen state leaders led by Texas were among a number of coalitions backing the Trump administration. But Hawaii officials, who filed the appeal contesting all of the president's orders, say the president's policies to violate the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom:
"Any reasonable observer who heard the President's campaign promises, read his thinly justified orders banning overwhelmingly Muslim populations, and observed his Administration's persistent statements linking the two, would view the order and each of its precursors as the fulfillment of the President's promise to prohibit Muslim immigration to the United States."
A number of civil rights, immigrant and Muslim advocates filed separate briefs opposing the government's policies. These challengers to the 3.0 order argue Trump has taken his enumerated powers to extremes by banning entire populations from multiple countries, an estimated 150 million people.
Federal appeals courts in Virginia and California in recent months had ruled against the administration. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit court last December concluded Trump's proclamation, like the two previous executive orders, overstepped his powers to regulate the entry of aliens.
A coalition of groups in opposition call the order blatant religious discrimination, since the five current countries involved have mostly Muslim populations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Chad was recently removed from the list after the administration said that country had beefed up its information-sharing.
The White House, on the other hand, has framed the issue as a temporary move involving national security.