President Donald Trump's attempts to restrict citizens from a handful of Middle Eastern countries from entering the U.S took another blow on Wednesday when judges in Hawaii and Maryland blocked his moratorium.
While not a surprise, the effort to temporarily halt people from these Muslim-majority countries is one area where Trump's stance is crystal clear while his foes offer muddled logic.
Recall that candidate Trump in December 2015, after the massacre in San Bernardino, California, called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on." That evolved to a policy of "extreme vetting."
He has not wavered. After taking office, he implemented temporary restrictions on travel for citizens from seven Middle Eastern countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. After judges blocked the initial order, the president removed Iraq and reissued it earlier this month. That was the one stymied this week.
Trump believes a terrorist threat exists from part of the Muslim world and wants to prevent it. To do that, he seeks to keep people from countries hostile to the United States from entering the country. Six of the seven countries identified by Trump are on the government's list of designated state sponsors of terrorism. Meanwhile, American troops have gone to war or engaged in combat in five of them.
Yet while Trump's point and policy seem clear, the fierce arguments made against the moratorium do not.
For example, the judges who have blocked the travel order assert that it is unconstitutional because it discriminates against practitioners of Islam. Yet Trump does not seek to stop entry by residents of other prominent Muslim-majority nations with similar demographics, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco and Turkey.
Moreover, do these rulings mean that the 1952 Immigration and Naturalization Act has been deemed unconstitutional? That law contains a provision that empowers the president to "suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate," if he believes their entry would be "detrimental" to U.S. interests. Just last month, Mae Ngai, an immigration historian at Columbia University, told Time magazine, within the context of the first order being overturned, "The way the law is written, it doesn't matter what the reason (for barring entry) is."
Trump's critics also assert that the order is meaningless because immigrants from those countries have not killed any Americans within the United States. The question arising from the argument is what level of violence is unacceptable? Just within the last six months knife-wielding Somali refugees have attacked Americans in Minnesota and Ohio, injuring a total of 20 people. Should we wait until someone is killed?
Given the lopsided judicial rulings from blue-state judges, the president should follow through on his pledge to take the case to the Supreme Court. Such clarity is needed.