Discussion on constitutionality questions ‘Muslim ban’

Dean of the College of Public Service & Community Solutions Jonathan Koppell engaged in conversation with students and community members Chat Conversation End. (Andrea Estrada/DD)

When students and members of the community joined Arizona State University College of Public Services and Community Solutions Dean Jonathan Koppell at the Westward Ho Tuesday night for a discussion on constitutionality, the immigration executive order and immigration reform as a whole emerged as central topics.

Koppell began by addressing the common misconception behind President Donald Trump’s executive order, which temporarily banned people from seven different Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The executive order was shut down a month ago.

“The simpler term to say, ‘the courts found it unconstitutional,’ is wrong,” Koppell said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is straightforward. It is weird. [But] this has been so badly reported.”

Special guest and co-host Paul Bender, former Dean of the College of Law, clarified what question the courts were debating when deciding the constitutionality of the ban.

“The question before them was is this likely to be held unconstitutional at every [level of the] courts,” he said.

Koppell explained the government tried to retaliate by arguing that the courts didn’t have the right to look into the case because the president has unreviewable authority with respect to national security.

Bender said the government’s claim was invalid because the Supreme Court has said many times in recent years that government orders on national security can be reviewed.

“No one in the government can [make that claim] with a straight face,” Bender said.

Koppell said on top of figuring out the standard of whether or not the executive order is constitutional is also the standard of whether or not it is something that the circuit courts should intervene with to stop the district courts’ injunction from taking place.

“The reason why that’s important is because when the president talked about it, and I’m not even sure the president understood himself to be honest, he said that the courts were making a decision about whether or not this was viable for national security,” Koppell said.

Koppell said what the courts were actually requesting was proof there would be a harm to national security if the ban was not implemented immediately.

“They basically made the argument that the government did not present evidence that there will be harm to the interest of the United States if this injunction is allowed to stand and until a final decision is rendered,” he said.

A question arose during the discussion that focused on if former President Barack Obama creating a massive new immigration law with the Deferred Action program was any different than Trump implement a ban that would expose a class of people to scrutiny.

Bender delineated the difference between the two. He said Obama’s program ultimately “gave,” while Trump’s executive order “takes away.”

“When you take away from people, they have procedural rights,” Bender said.

Mike Langley, an event attendee, described an incident that occurred in Texas involving an undocumented woman who was ill and taken out of a hospital by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

“Can officials remove a patient under a physician’s care?” he said. “I’m curious if they could even do that.”

Contact the reporter at amestra4@asu.edu.