GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The executive order on immigration issued by the White House nearly two weeks ago has been, without question, the most hotly debated move in the Trump presidency thus far. Rarely does an executive order garner such attention and draw such controversy, but it also raises questions about a president’s authority when it comes to issuing such orders.
Those were questions Dr. Mark Richards, chairman of the Grand Valley State University political science department, sought to answer Monday during a seminar to students and visitors entitled, simply, “Can He Do That?”
“Well, it’s complicated,” Dr. Richards admitted. “There’s a few normal checks on executive orders, one of which is the president has to have some type of legal authority.”
That authority can come from powers granted to the commander-in-chief through the Constitution, or authority granted by Congress. In the case of the travel ban, it comes from the latter.
“The INA – essentially our legislation that deals with immigration - does give the president that authority. So that’s via legislation that’s been passed by congress in the past,” said Dr. Richards. “So if he deems that admission of certain groups of ‘aliens’ as they’re called under the law, would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, then he does have some authority to keep them out.”
But the INA is acting as a sort of double-edged sword for the Trump administration. While the legislation sets precedent for Trump’s actions, it also contradicts itself. The INA states that no one will be denied immigration status based on place of birth, and while Trump and his cabinet have stated time and time again that this is not a Muslim ban, his plan offers exceptions for minority religions in each of the seven countries named in the executive order – all Muslim-majority nations.
“That’s one of the controversies,” said Dr. Richards. “You’ve got two different aspects of the INA that essentially could be at odds with each other.”
So far, six U.S. District Courts have issued rulings against the ban with one judge later reversing his decision.
At the time this story was published, FOX 17 was still waiting to hear word from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals out of Washington state for a ruling. But even when that comes down, the fight may not be over.
“The Supreme Court has said in the past that if a law is neutral on its face but discriminatory in application, it still can be challenged,” said Dr. Richards. “Ultimately, it could be up to the Supreme Court.”