What the Supreme Court travel ban hearing means for Minnesotans

Immigrants, refugees and community activists rallied in Washington D.C. as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments to determine if President Trump’s travel ban is legal.

Minnesota has the largest east African population in the United States, making the outcome crucial for countless families in the state—so crucial, one of the leading Somali activists from Minneapolis flew to Washington, D.C. and organized protests. 

“Many Somalis living in Minnesota have really been confused,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Minnesota chapter. “Many of them even left the state, even when they had paths to become citizens out of fear of what this ban meant for them.” 

Hussein helped coordinate protests and accused the administration of discriminating against Muslims. Hussein is also from Somalia and has been directly affected by the ban. 

“My family members cannot come here—those who don’t have citizenship, so it impacts me personally and it impacts the state of Minnesota with a large east Africa population,” he said. 

The Supreme Court allowed same-day distribution for audio recordings of the arguments for the first time since same-sex marriage arguments in 2015. 

Key justices on the bench seemed skeptical of the challenge to the ban. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often seen as a swing vote, had tough questions for both sides. 

“This is about a perennial problem,” said Neal Katyal, a lawyer representing challengers of the travel ban. 

“So you want the President to say, I’m convinced that in six months we’re going to have a safe world?” Justice Kennedy questioned. 

“Well, well, well, no, Justice Kennedy, that’s not our argument,” Katyal said. “Our argument is, here, the President is identifying something that is a perennial problem. Our brief says it goes back 100 years.” 

Lower courts have struck down three versions of the ban. 

“If the court decides in favor of the government and the president it’ll be because in general terms under our separation of powers framework, it is the President who is given control and authority over international affairs, diplomatic relations and national security,” said professor Anthony Winer, a constitutional law expert at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

The current version of the ban applies to travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen—all countries with Muslim majorities. The ban also affects two non-Muslim countries. It blocks travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. 

The Supreme Court will most likely make a decision about the travel ban around June.