My recent post on Ricochet took the position that the Ninth Circuit was correct when it set aside Trump’s controversial executive orders on legal permanent aliens and refugees and asked the Trump administration to reexamine the result. Most people in dealing with this order claim that it went too far because it did not accept the President’s position that the order was wholly unreviewable, regardless of its content, which was viewed as self-evidently correct by some and wholly outside the bounds of decency by others. Indeed, many of the comments on Ricochet took the former position by arguing that Presidents should follow the lead of Andrew Jackson and tell the Court to enforce its own order. But it is, as other readers noted, a wild overreaction to a particular dispute to throw out a set of institutional arrangements that have by and large served the United States well for over 200 years.
I put these grander objections aside, therefore, to look at two more fine-grained challenges. I start by noting that in making this decision, the Ninth Circuit was right to avoid grappling on a thin record with claims that both the Establishment and Free Exercise Clause applied to the particular case. That analysis would have been a major transformation of American law that could quite literally upset established practices on allocating scarce immigration slots on the basis of national origin. It also allowed the Court to side step the very tricky question of the extent to which alien claims generated some positive right to become an immigrant. I regard these claims when stated in their general form to be wholly unsupportable. In general, the power of every nation to protect its own borders means that no outsider has a categorical right to enter this country but must allowed to apply before entry.More