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National

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Trump's Travel Ban Case Next Term

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump's revised travel ban that targets six mainly Muslim countries is back in effect - at least partially. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court said travelers who have established ties with the United States could enter the country, but those who have never been here or who have no connections could be prohibited. President Trump called the decision a, quote, "clear victory for national security." White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer added this comment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEAN SPICER: So I don't want to get too far ahead of all these brilliant legal minds as they review the impact, but I think - as I noted, I think the president feels - he's very, very pleased with the 9-0 decision.

MARTIN: Worth noting here that the decision was unsigned, so it's unclear how the individual justices came down on this. The Supreme Court will hear arguments about the legality of the ban this fall. Douglas Chin is the state attorney general from Hawaii who filed the challenge to the president's travel ban that's now before the court. He joins me. Thanks so much for being with us.

DOUGLAS CHIN: Hi, Rachel. Good morning.

MARTIN: So lower courts said that the ban should be suspended while the overall legality is decided. The Supreme Court has ruled essentially the opposite, that the ban should be in place until the legality is decided. So does that mean this is a defeat for you?

CHIN: Well, I think it's a partial ban. And in that sense, you have a partial defeat for now as well as a partial victory. I think what you have is six justices that are saying that if you do have a connection to the United States either because of a close family relationship or because of a college or university or some employer relationship, if you're invited to speak at a conference here in the U.S, any sort of string that connects you from - with the U.S, then the six justices are saying that you are allowed to come into the country notwithstanding any travel ban that's been put forward by the U.S. So I think what you really have is it's definitely how you look at it, a half-empty, half-full type of analysis.

MARTIN: So the Supreme Court had come down with some pretty harsh language - overturning the harsh language, rather, of lower court rulings. One of which said the travel ban, quote, "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination." So if they are letting this happen now, even partially, doesn't it mean that the court does not agree with that argument, that the court doesn't believe that this ban is discriminatory?

CHIN: I don't actually think so. And let me tell you why. I mean, to my mind when I read the decision, it's not so much that the tone has changed. And I know some scholars have kind of pointed out - pointed that out. I think it's that the justices are being very careful to not breach the merits of the discussion. In other words, what they're doing is they're saying, you know, we realize that there's a lot of arguments out there.

What we need to do is we need to figure out how do we strike an equitable balance that takes into account, you know, the needs of the - or not the needs - but the arguments of the entire nation while we're waiting for this argument to occur in October. And so what you see is more of an equitable solution, rather than a legal solution...

MARTIN: But let me ask you this.

CHIN: ...Which is reserved for October.

MARTIN: The individual states who had filed these challenges, they often pointed to the fact that, well, this - we have standing to file these suits because our universities will suffer because students can't come here. Teachers from abroad won't be able to come to our institutions.

So this decision by the court, though, is essentially saying, no, that's OK, you can come. And people who have family relationships and can't see their families, they wouldn't be able to visit to the U.S. But now, the Supreme Court is saying, no, they can come.

CHIN: That's right. And I think that that's - I think the point that would happen would be that we'd say that, well, that actually ties into our argument that if they're looking at - if they're looking at what is the best thing to do between now and then, you know, that they're trying to decide OK, well, let's let people who have some sort of U.S. connection be able to come into the country.

I actually think there's another way to look at the 16-page decision that came out today - came out, excuse me, yesterday. And that is that it is a preview for some sort of 6-3 or some sort of, you know, decision - that pluralistic decision that involves taking into account the different arguments that occurred in the courts below.

MARTIN: Real quick, it was a 90-day ban on foreigners from six major Muslim countries. That time will have elapsed by the time the court hears this. Will it matter anymore?

CHIN: Well, you know, I - for - without question, mootness is going to be an issue...

MARTIN: Yeah.

CHIN: ...That comes up by one of the parties. And actually, I can see that there's a lot of jockeying to try to establish the winning position in that.

MARTIN: Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin. Thanks for your time.

CHIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.