Federal judges — including those on the U.S. Supreme Court — who relish membership in the Trump resistance have increasingly adopted an unfortunate and dangerous judicial philosophy of “the ends justify the means.” Take the administration’s so-called immigration ban involving a handful of majority Muslim nations.
On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the policy by a 5-4 vote. “The proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority. “The text says nothing about religion.”
But the progressive justices were having none of it. Like the liberal lower-court jurists who red-flagged the law, they focused on Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks on the campaign trail about Muslims rather than the wording of the provision itself, which was much more limited.
Reading her dissent from the bench to express her displeasure with the president, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that candidate Trump had called for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the country. She went so far afield as to compare the ban to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The ban “tells members of minority religions” in the United States that “they are outsiders,” she complained.
But that’s a policy argument, not a legal one. And encouraging judges to base rulings on campaign or political rhetoric, rather than the actual text of the law, opens the door to all sorts of judicial mischief.
Justice Sotomayor opposes the president’s immigration policy in this area as discriminatory and misguided. Fair enough. Many policies from many administrations have stirred passionate opposition. But the court was not asked to decide whether the ban was wise and prudent, only to determine if imposing the policy was within the president’s authority given the framework of the Constitution.
Mr. Trump, of course, seized on the decision as an opportunity to gloat, perhaps understandably given the daily barrage of overwrought progressive criticism that compares the president to an evil dictator with no respect for the law.
“This ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country,” he said. “As long as I am president, I will defend the sovereignty, safety and security of the American people.”
The Constitution gives the president significant powers when it comes to enforcing immigration law. Mr. Trump’s directive, regardless of whether one believes it to be a advisable exercise of authority, was “within the core of executive responsibility,” Justice Roberts noted. And from a legal standpoint, that’s all that matters.