Jewish groups decry Supreme Court upholding of Trump travel ban
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Jewish groups decry Supreme Court upholding of Trump travel ban

Leading immigrant rights organization HIAS expresses ‘disappointment’; Reform Jewish leader calls on Congress to ‘push back against offensive and dangerous policy’

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside a federal courthouse in Seattle, May 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside a federal courthouse in Seattle, May 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Jewish rights groups responded with dismay Tuesday after the US Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s executive order mandating a ban on travel from several Muslim majority countries.

The court voted 5-4 to uphold the order in a decision announced Tuesday. The order “is squarely within the scope of Presidential authority,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

The Anti-Defamation League said it was “profoundly disappointed and saddened” by the verdict.

“Today’s decision will be recalled as a dark and shameful stain on America’s history reminiscent of other times when America turned against our highest ideals of equality, liberty, and justice,” the ADL said in a statement.

A number of Jewish groups, including HIAS, the lead immigration advocacy group in the Jewish community, the ADL, and the National Council of Jewish Women, had joined briefs challenging the ban. The conservative Zionist Organization of America filed a brief in support.

Responding to the court ruling, HIAS said in a statement, “The Muslim Ban is not simply an exercise in executive authority, it’s the Trump Administration’s official license to discriminate on the basis of religion and nationality. HIAS is disappointed in the Supreme Court’s affirmation of these policies of religious discrimination, fear and tribalism, which have permeated nearly every aspect of America’s tradition of welcome.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said Jewish opposition to the ban should be rooted in its own dark history.

“Historically, Jews have borne the brunt of religiously based discrimination and indifference to the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people. As Jews, we remember the consequences of being turned away from America’s shores, and we recall those who perished at the hands of bigoted policy. As Americans, we commit to welcoming the stranger and assisting those seeking refuge on our shores.”

“Now that the Court has ruled, Congress must exercise its power to push back against offensive and dangerous policy and ensure that the future of this nation is one of moral integrity.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, speaking at Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s biennial Consultation on Conscience, April 30, 2017, in Washington, DC. (courtesy RAC)

Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, called the decision heart-breaking.

“Scapegoating people of one religion, restricting their travel, separating families across international borders — the Jewish community has seen this before, and we must raise our voices now,” he said.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch joined the majority decision. The three Jewish justices — Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — joined Sonia Sotomayor in dissenting.

The state of Hawaii, which filed the challenge, referred to statements Trump made on the campaign trail and since taking office to show his hostility toward Muslim people. In her dissent, Sotomayor said the court was wrong to ignore Trump’s statements about Muslims.

Illustrative: Anti-travel ban protesters hold signs and march outside the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, Monday, May 8, 2017. (AP/Steve Helber)

There have been several iterations of the ban. The executive order announced in September prohibits travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as from Chad and North Korea, and includes some Venezuelan government officials and their families. The ban went into effect in December, even as the appeals moved forward.

During oral arguments in April, Kagan asked if a similar ban on Israelis by an anti-Semitic president would be constitutional. Noel Francisco, the solicitor general who was defending the ban, said it could be legal.

In February, the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Virginia declared the travel ban unconstitutional. The decision came a month after the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from a similar decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

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