The rational basis standard of review considers whether the entry policy under the Immigration and Nationality Act is plausibly related to the government’s stated objective to protect the country and improve vetting processes. As a result, the court may consider extrinsic evidence, but will uphold the policy so long as it can reasonably be understood to result from a justification independent of unconstitutional grounds.
In September 2017, President Trump issued Proclamation No. 9645, seeking to improve vetting procedures for foreign nationals traveling to the United States by identifying ongoing deficiencies in the information needed to assess whether nationals of particular countries present a security threat. The Proclamation placed entry restrictions on the nationals of eight foreign states - Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen - whose systems for managing and sharing information about their nationals the President deemed inadequate. Plaintiffs—the State of Hawai'i, three individuals with foreign relatives affected by the entry suspension, and the Muslim Association of Hawai'i—argued that the Proclamation violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Establishment Clause. The District Court granted a nationwide preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the restrictions. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Proclamation contravened two provisions of the INA: §1182(f), which authorizes the President to suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens whenever he finds that their entry would be detrimental to the interests of the United States; and §1152(a)(1)(A), which provides that no person shall be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence. The court, however, did not reach plaintiffs’ Establishment Clause claim. Thereafter, the Government appealed, arguing that plaintiffs’ challenge to the Proclamation under the INA is not justiciable. Relying on the doctrine of consular non-reviewability, the Government contends that because aliens have no claim of right to enter the United States and because exclusion of aliens is a fundamental act of sovereignty by the political branches, review of an exclusion decision is not within the province of any court, unless expressly authorized by law.
Was Proclamation No. 9645 violative of Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution?
The Court held that a presidential proclamation placing entry restrictions on nationals from eight foreign states was a valid exercise of presidential authority under 8 U.S.C.S. § 1182(f) where the President found that their entry was detrimental to the United States' interests. According to the Court, the text of 8 U.S.C.S. § 1182(f ) states that whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, 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. By its terms, § 1182(f ) exudes deference to the President in every clause. It entrusts to the President the decisions whether and when to suspend entry, whose entry to suspend, and on what conditions. The Court posited that § 1182(f ) vests the President with ample power to impose entry restrictions in addition to those elsewhere enumerated in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Ruling on the plaintiffs’ challenge on the grounds of Establishment Clause, the Court concluded that although the three individual plaintiffs had standing to challenge the exclusion of relatives under the Establishment Clause, on rational basis review, the proclamation was facially legitimate in that it, inter alia, aimed to prevent the entry of nationals who could not be adequately vetted.