© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Critic Of Trump's Travel Ban Weighs In On Supreme Court Hearing


In December of 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump made an astounding statement.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

MARTIN: He stood by that statement, often on the campaign trail and, of course, repeatedly on Twitter. But the president's lawyers told the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday those statements don't matter. They were defending the latest version of Trump's travel ban. Here's Solicitor General Noel Francisco.


NOEL FRANCISCO: This is not a so-called Muslim ban. If it were, it would be the most ineffective Muslim ban that one could possibly imagine, since not only does it exclude the vast majority of the Muslim world, it also omits three Muslim-majority countries that were covered by past orders.

MARTIN: With me now in the studio, Lieutenant Governor Doug Chin of the state of Hawaii - he was Hawaii's attorney general when he filed the state's challenge to the travel ban. And he was sitting in the courtroom as justices heard oral arguments on this yesterday.

Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much for coming in.

DOUG CHIN: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What stood out to you yesterday when you were hearing all this unfold?

CHIN: Well, I think the big question is really, how much deference do you give to a president of the United States? And everybody agrees that you actually give the president a lot of deference when it comes to national security issues. But our argument has always been that deference must have its boundaries. And those boundaries are the U.S. Constitution as well as the laws that are passed by Congress when it comes to immigration. And what we could see is that there was a lot of justices that were willing to give the president a pass, to give him the benefit of the doubt in ways that the lower courts weren't willing to do.

MARTIN: Well, as you just indicated, I mean, a lot of observers believe that the justices will ultimately uphold the ban based on the kinds of questions they were asking yesterday. Is that how you read the proceedings? Is that what you expect?

CHIN: Well, I'm not that enthusiastic about reading the tea leaves in that direction, obviously, because of the position that I've taken. But I think even more than that, just last week we had a very important immigration case that had to do with deportation where Justice Gorsuch, of all the justices, ended up siding with what everybody calls the liberal justices of the Supreme Court. And it resulted in a decision that nobody expected and nobody knew from the oral arguments. So I think there was a lot of focus paid on Justice Kennedy asking certain questions. But frankly, he asked questions that were tough to both sides.

MARTIN: Well, what do you make of the government's position that if this was a Muslim ban, it would be the worst Muslim ban in the history of the world because it includes non-Muslim countries and excludes so few of the world's Muslim population?

CHIN: Well, the standard is not so much whether the government characterized it or, frankly, even having to read the mind of the president when he does what he does. The standard has always been, under the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, whether or not a reasonable observer would look at this situation and decide that there is some discrimination that's happening. And in this case, we don't buy it. I think a lot of people in the public - I think the people of Hawaii were able to see the various tweets and statements that were made by President Trump, not just before he became president...

MARTIN: But essentially...

CHIN: ...But even after.

MARTIN: ...The government's arguing the tweets don't matter...

CHIN: That's right.

MARTIN: ...That you can't look at the tweets. You have to look at the so-called four corners of the order, and the tweets don't apply.

CHIN: Right. And what we'd say is, under the jurisprudence, that's not the case - that you are able to look at the statements that are made that are surrounding any sort of passage of an order or a law. So in this case, there's even things that President Trump had done even after the third travel ban came out, such as tweeting anti-Islamic videos that were false that really shocked the nation during that time. So - we had this judge in the Hawaii federal district court that said, I'm not going to crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed and pretend I haven't seen what I've seen. And that's where we're at.

MARTIN: You yourself are the son of immigrants to this country.

CHIN: Yes, I am.

MARTIN: Does this case have a personal significance to you?

CHIN: Oh, yes. My parents came to the United States at a time when the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese Exclusion Act was in place. And in the 1960s - that's what's so important about this case is that Congress in the 1960s, when they passed the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and even the new Immigration and Nationality Act that we have today, specifically banned country-based discrimination and country-based quotas. So I think what we can see here is that this is a return to that time.

MARTIN: Doug Chin is lieutenant governor of Hawaii. It's the state leading the challenge to President Trump's travel ban. Thanks so much for joining us.

CHIN: All right. Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.