Supreme Court Will Hear Travel Ban Cases In October In an unusual move, the Supreme Court announced its decision to hear the Trump administration's travel ban cases from the bench. It merged the two cases and granted the stay applications in part.


Supreme Court Will Hear Travel Ban Cases In October

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Big news this morning from the U.S. Supreme Court - the court has agreed to review President Trump's ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. The court scheduled oral arguments in the case for October. Let's remember, the ban was first imposed in January and later revised, but its enforcement has been held up in lower federal courts. But the Supreme Court - and this is important - has decided to let the president's ban take effect with respect to some cases but to keep it on hold with respect to others.

Let's hear much more about this from NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, who is at the Supreme Court. Hi, Nina.


GREENE: So let's make sure I have this straight. This travel ban is going to be argued before the court in the fall. But in the meantime, walk us through who can come into the United States from these affected countries and who cannot.

TOTENBERG: Basically, if you have any connection to a person in the United States - it's your son or your daughter or your daughter-in-law, whatever - or if you have a job that's waiting for you here from a company or you're going to school here; you've been admitted to school here - if you have any sort of a connection like that, you can come. And the president's executive order is on hold for you.

If, on the other hand, you have no connection - you're simply a refugee trying to get to the United States, and you don't have a formal sponsor here, for example - then you're - the court has said, we're going to get rid of the lower court's orders on that temporarily while we hear this case in October and decide the whole thing. And it was a vote of 6-3. And the three dissenters - Justices Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas - all said that this was - they didn't like this compromise. And that's what they called it, a compromise.

GREENE: They didn't want the compromise. They wanted to allow this to go into effect in full?


GREENE: Interesting.

TOTENBERG: No, no - they didn't want - they wanted the president's executive order to go into effect in full.

GREENE: In full. And so this was a compromise to allow it to go into effect for some people.


GREENE: Isn't it unusual, Nina, for the court to take on a case when appeals courts from different parts of the country agreed on their handling of it? I mean, they agreed that they did not find this lawful. So I...

TOTENBERG: Well there's - first of all...

GREENE: ...I wonder what that tells us about the court.

TOTENBERG: I'm not sure you can draw too many conclusions. After all, this is a national security case. The president of the United States is asserting that national security is at risk. And it is not unusual, actually, for the court to extend a certain amount of deference to that kind of presidential judgment in the short run and then to hear the case later. So I would not say it's that unusual.

GREENE: And before I let you go, Nina, another big decision today that resolved a case - and this was involving a Lutheran school in Missouri that was interested in building a new playground - what exactly was at stake there? And what'd the court decide?

TOTENBERG: This is a really huge case. And they must be celebrating over in the Department of Education, where Betsy DeVos is the secretary, because this was - the court has held, for the first time, that states may not deny grant money, at least in the area of nonreligious health and safety stuff. Here, it was a playground. They may not deny grant money to an avowedly religious school. And that opens the door to lots of taxpayer money going to religious schools. The dissenters, Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg, called this a radical decision that would make a mockery of the idea of separation between church and state.

GREENE: All right. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg at the Supreme Court this morning. We'll be having much more coverage of these cases later today on All Things Considered. Nina, thanks a lot.

TOTENBERG: You're welcome.

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