The Straits Times says

US travel ban: Stay open, safe and fair

Ever since the United States Supreme Court ruled last December that President Donald Trump's travel ban on seven countries could go into effect pending legal challenges, there was always a good chance that the order, previously stalled by lower courts, would be allowed to stand. The Court's final ruling has now upheld Mr Trump's order as constitutionally valid. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the presidential proclamation was not about religion but "expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices". The affected countries are Iran, Somalia, North Korea, Yemen, Venezuela, Libya and Syria.

This was no easy judgment given that Mr Trump's critics have portrayed the move as him making good on his campaign promises of a "total and complete abolition of Muslims entering the US". Others note that some of the most heinous terror incidents stateside, such as the 9/11 attacks, Boston marathon bombing and Orlando nightclub shooting, were carried out by individuals from countries not on the list, or who were US-born. The court's verdict, reflective of American public sentiment, was split 5-4 with the dissenting judges maintaining that the court failed to uphold the religious liberty guaranteed by the US Constitution. While it is the exception in boisterous democracies that government decisions do not have an element of politics, it is worth examining the ban on its merit. First, of the nearly 10 million "non-immigrant" visas issued in the 2017 fiscal year to tourists, students and businessmen, only 87,000 were to people from the affected countries. Of these, Venezuela, by no means a Muslim-majority country, had 56,720. This is nearly twice as many visas as the rest combined, and compares with 19,801 for Iran, the "Muslim" country most affected. But the Trump ban does not affect nations with large Muslim populations such as Indonesia, Pakistan, India or Turkey. Nevertheless, the dissenting judges held that "a reasonable observer" would conclude that the ban was motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice .

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'US travel ban: Stay open, safe and fair'. Subscribe