Courts sending Trump a message: Your travel ban is half-baked

Miami Herald Editorial Board

A protester makes a statement outside the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
A protester makes a statement outside the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Associated Press

President Trump’s overreaching travel ban temporarily preventing anyone from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States was swatted down by the courts — again. On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals slapped back at the Trump administration’s efforts to reinstate the ban. The ban, misguided and poorly implemented, remains on hold.

The ruling — which the president said even high-school students knew should have favored him — is a sobering pushback from the judicial branch, whose members have been taking a beating from Trump even before he was president.

However, it’s not personal; it’s the law, judges have ruled so far. The travel ban remains a constitutional nonstarter. In fact, we hope that any high school student would see the president’s executive order for the disaster that it is.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Robart, in Seattle, Washington, placed a temporary restraining order on the travel ban. The president had an unpresidential fit, labeling Robart a “so-called judge,” words that disrespected both the jurist and the rule of law, a bedrock principle of this nation. Even Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, found the attack “demoralizing.”

After Thursday’s appeals court decision, in a change in tone, the president tersely tweeted — of course — “See you in court.” Perhaps a recognition, finally, that there is a deliberative process for such debates, and that the judiciary will not simply bend to his will.

The reality is that the president will not back down from some type of travel ban, for his tweet also said: “The security of our nation is at stake!”

As president, Trump is absolutely right to want to protect this country from the forces of terrorism. It was one of the tenets of his campaign, though rooted, unfortunately, in fear and xenophobia. But his modus operandi was abysmal, disruptive and discriminatory. John Kelly, secretary of homeland security, said the travel ban was rushed into implementation and poorly coordinated. Kelly, it should be noted, is Trump’s pick to lead the department, not some holdover from the Obama administration, like former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, who last week refused to defend the ban and whom Trump subsequently fired.

Trump, always itching for fight, is also hankering for a win. For him, it is personal. If the Trump administration insists on a travel ban, then it, along with Congress, should craft a more narrowly focused immigration order that passes constitutional muster.

Unfortunately, the president is willfully ignoring measures — less dramatic than a travel ban or a border wall — that would more effectively target the sources of terrorism that endanger the United States. Already there are bipartisan bills in Congress that would tackle Russia’s cyberattacks; the number of people who overstay student visas is troubling; and who is coming in through “waiver nations” — countries whose citizens can enter the United States without a visa? Nations with large immigrant communities in Europe populate the list. And, though it would give Stephen Bannon dyspepsia, there needs to be a stronger, not weaker, focus on disrupting the domestic terrorists that make up extremist white-nationalist groups.

The courts have said the travel ban is the wrong way to protect the nation. There is a right way, and Trump should pursue it.