The Supreme Court handed a victory to President Donald Trump Monday, when it allowed his latest travel ban to go into effect even as legal challenges continue in lower courts. The administration can now fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight countries, six of them predominantly Muslim. The ruling will bar most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea from entering the United States, along with some groups of people from Venezuela. We speak with Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney who presented the first challenge to Trump's travel ban order, resulting in a nationwide injunction.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Supreme Court handed a victory to President Trump Monday by allowing his latest travel ban to go into effect, even as legal challenges continue in the lower courts. The administration can now fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight countries, six of them predominantly Muslim. The ruling will bar most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea from entering the United States, along with some groups of people from Venezuela. The latest version of the travel ban was issued in September, shortly before the Supreme Court was set to hear oral arguments on the previous version of the travel ban.
AMY GOODMAN: Last month, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to allow the latest travel ban to take effect, following an appeals court ruling that blocked part of it from being enacted. This latest travel ban removed Sudan from the original list and added the countries of Chad and North Korea and some government officials from Venezuela. Trump first sought to implement a travel ban a week after taking office in January.
To find out more about the implications of the Supreme Court ruling, we're joined now by Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney, who presented the first challenge to President Trump's travel ban order. His argument resulted in a nationwide injunction.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!
LEE GELERNT: Thanks for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about the significance of this.
LEE GELERNT: Yeah. I mean, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's really unfortunate that the court has allowed the ban to go into effect immediately. It's going to mean real hardship for people around the country who are seeking to have their relatives come to this country. We're going to continue fighting it. You know, we have a court of appeals argument this Friday in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. That's going to go forward. We hope that we'll prevail. We suspect, if we prevail, the government will take the case to the US Supreme Court, and then we'll have to fight in the US Supreme Court. There's also a parallel case in Hawaii that will be argued before the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit tomorrow. Hopefully they will prevail, as well. We suspect, if -- you know, I mean, I think we're fairly certain at this point that if we prevail, we'll end up in the US Supreme Court. And the stay ruling is not a great sign for us, but we're going to continue fighting.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But now, the court did indicate that it expected the lower courts, the appeals courts, to actually judge the merits of the actual ban, right?
LEE GELERNT: Absolutely. So this ruling by the Supreme Court was just a temporary stay ruling. There was no actual opinion. It was just a one-paragraph order. It didn't discuss the merits. It's just allowing the ban to go into effect temporarily while the courts of appeals adjudicate the merits of this case.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And yet -- but yet, two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented even in this. Do we have any idea for the basis of their dissent?
LEE GELERNT: We don't. They did not write an opinion. The majority, in issuing the stay, did not write an opinion. And the two dissenters did not write an opinion. The whole thing is just one paragraph, so it's impossible to read into it sort of details. And so, we will just tell the court of appeals in Richmond on Friday they should decide the case on the merits. That's what the Supreme Court expects them to do. And then, if we prevail, we expect we'll be in the Supreme Court later this year.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain exactly what this ban is.
LEE GELERNT: Right. So the ban looks at eight countries, as you said. The majority of the countries are Muslim-majority countries. And it blocks individuals from those countries, most individuals from those countries, from coming to the United States. And what it changes dramatically from the history of our immigration system is, no longer are people vetted individually to see if they're a security risk, and allowing the overwhelming majority of people from any country to come in who obviously are not security risks. What it says is, categorically, we're going to ban people from those countries.
And the majority of them are Muslim. And we have said all along that we believe President Trump was trying to enact a Muslim ban. And what he did is just talk about countries that happen to be Muslim, rather than using the word "Islam" or "Muslim." And that's what's going to happen. There's going to be -- we have relatives in the US waiting for their wives, for all types of relatives to come in. They may never see them again.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about that issue of family --
LEE GELERNT: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: -- and what the Trump administration is saying they're going to do about it right now? Are they just going to ban them all?
LEE GELERNT: They are saying that someone can apply for an individual waiver. But the criteria for getting one of those waivers is so hard, and they haven't made it clear how you go about getting one of those waivers. So that's really no solution.
AMY GOODMAN: So you go to court on Friday?
LEE GELERNT: We go to court on Friday.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us, Lee Gelernt, ACLU attorney, who presented the first challenge to President Trump's travel ban. His argument resulted in a nationwide injunction. Of course, we'll continue to follow this story.
When we come back from break, President Trump makes history. That's right, he goes to Utah to announce he's rolling back federal -- protections on federal land. This is the greatest rollback in US history. Stay with us.