The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ absurd ruling against President Trump’s immigration and refugee executive order contains a bevy of legal problems. It’s not just a bad political ruling, though it is – it’s bad law. Here are five of the biggest problems with the ruling:
1. States Suffer “Concrete and Particularized Injury” If Aliens Can’t Come To University Classes. This is absolutely absurd. It would strike down virtually any immigration law. All immigration laws restrict classes of people from entering, numbers of people from entering. Some of those people would undoubtedly go to university, or teach there. Does this mean that states can now sue to overturn all immigration laws?
2. The Federal Government Doesn’t Suffer “Irreparable Injury” If The Courts Overrule Immigration Policy. The court casually states that while the government has an interest in combatting terrorism, the “Government has done little more than reiterate that fact.” The executive branch didn’t explain sufficiently to the judiciary why the executive order needed to be put into effect, and so the executive branch has to go home emptyhanded. Again, this is ridiculous. Are we supposed to wait to be hit? Would the judiciary apply this same standard to, say, gun control laws?
3. Everybody Has Due Process Rights. This is perhaps the craziest element of the ruling: the statement that everyone from lawful permanent residents to aliens with a visa traveling abroad has due process rights. The court even says that illegal aliens have due process rights. The Constitution isn’t just for citizens anymore – which begs the question as to why anyone would bother applying for citizenship.
4. Courts Can Look To Motive Rather Than Text. The court said that they could look at Donald Trump’s statements during the campaign about a Muslim ban in order to evaluate this executive order. This is dangerous. Attempting to read the minds of those who put together laws is far more arbitrary than reading the text or looking at the application of the law. It's also amazing that the Ninth Circuit would say this now, but that the Supreme Court would ignore President Obama saying for YEARS that Obamacare was not a tax, then rule that Obamacare was indeed a tax.
5. The Court Refuses To Strike Down Portions. Normally, the court works to avoid striking down entire laws or staying entire executive orders. Instead, the court just threw up its hands and suggested that it had done its best, but it couldn’t bother doing a close read.
All in all, the decision is damningly silly. That doesn’t make the executive order a model of legal brilliance – it’s got plenty of problems I have discussed elsewhere. But the court’s decision here does more damage to the law than the executive order, and it ain’t close.