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Supreme Court allows full enforcement of Trump travel ban

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to fully enforce a ban on travel to the United States by residents of six mostly Muslim countries.

This is not a final ruling on the travel ban: Challenges to the policy are winding through the federal courts, and the justices themselves ultimately are expected to rule on its legality.

But the action indicates that the high court might eventually approve the latest version of the ban, announced by President Donald Trump in September. Lower courts have continued to find problems with the policy.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the White House is "not surprised by (Monday's) Supreme Court decision permitting immediate enforcement of the President's proclamation limiting travel from countries presenting heightened risks of terrorism."

Opponents of this and previous versions of the ban say they show a bias against Muslims. They say that was reinforced most recently by Trump's retweets of anti-Muslim videos.

"President Trump's anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret. He has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter. It's unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project. The ACLU is representing some opponents of the ban.

Just two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, noted their disagreement with court orders allowing the latest policy to take full effect.

The new policy is not expected to cause the chaos that ensued at airports when Trump rolled out his first ban without warning in January.

The ban applies to travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Lower courts had said people from those nations with a claim of a "bona fide" relationship with someone in the United States could not be kept out of the country. Grandparents, cousins and other relatives were among those courts said could not be excluded.

The courts were borrowing language the Supreme Court itself came up with last summer to allow partial enforcement of an earlier version of the ban.

Now, those relationships will no longer provide a blanket exemption from the ban, although visa officials can make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The justices offered no explanation for their order, but the administration had said that blocking the full ban was causing "irreparable harm" because the policy is based on legitimate national security and foreign policy concerns.

In lawsuits filed in Hawaii and Maryland, federal courts said the updated travel ban violated federal immigration law. The travel policy also applies to travelers from North Korea and to some Venezuelan government officials and their families, but the lawsuits did not challenge those restrictions. Also unaffected are refugees. A temporary ban on refugees expired in October.

All the rulings so far have been on a preliminary basis. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, will be holding arguments on the legality of the ban this week.

David Levine, a University of California Hastings law school professor, said that by allowing the ban to take effect just days before the appeals court arguments, the justices were signaling their view.

"I think it's tipping the hand of the Supreme Court," Levine said. "It suggests that from their understanding, the government is more likely to prevail on the merits than we might have thought."

Both appeals courts are dealing with the issue on an accelerated basis, and the Supreme Court noted it expects those courts to reach decisions "with appropriate dispatch."

Quick resolution by appellate courts would allow the Supreme Court to hear and decide the issue this term, by the end of June.

No-party Johnson seeks more sway in Iowa Senate

DES MOINES — The only member of the Iowa Senate not affiliated with one of the two major political parties said the 60,000 people he was elected to represent are being denied equal access to the legislative process because majority Republicans have refused to grant him committee assignments.

Sen. David Johnson of Ocheyedan, who changed his voter registration from Republican to “No Party” in June 2016 over his disagreements with now-President Donald Trump, said he is pressing for full committee participation in the upcoming 2018 legislative session.

Johnson said there is “well-established” precedent in Iowa’s legislative archives for Senate and House independent members to serve on committees. The refusal of Senate GOP leaders to grant him the customary committee assignment amounts to “legislation without representation,” he said.

“Like every one of my Senate colleagues, I represent about 60,000 Iowans, yet last session Republican leadership rejected my repeated requests to be appointed to vote on standing committees,” Johnson said in a statement Monday. “Those are votes denied to my constituents, who have been largely left waiting at the committee altar.”

In a Nov. 25 letter to Senate Secretary Charles Smithson, the chamber’s nonpartisan administrative officer, Johnson contended his independent status creates a “third caucus” with minority standing. “Our chamber rules do not define ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ to mean a system of only two political parties,” Johnson wrote. “Neither does the Iowa Constitution.”

Johnson said he has yet to receive an official response. The 2018 session convenes Jan. 8.

Republicans currently hold a 28-20-1 majority in the Senate, pending a Dec. 12 special election in District 3 to fill the vacancy caused by the recent resignation of Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pearson.

Johnson noted that Senate Democrats gave up one voting seat so he could serve on the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee during the 2017 session. But, he said, that committee slot should go back to a Democrat. Johnson said Senate leaders need to follow a rule allowing him, like any senator, to serve on up to six standing committees, which mostly deal with policy matters.

“I can introduce legislation and can vote on the Senate floor,” he said. “But Republican leaders have blocked that very critical middle step, voting in committee to determine whether proposed legislation advances to the full Senate.”

According to Johnson’s research, the last independent elected to the Iowa Senate was William Schmedika of Hardin County in 1923.

“Included with my letter to the secretary are scores of pages copied from legislative documents showing that Sen. Schmedika was appointed to committees, was given bills to consider in subcommittee and voted in committee,” Johnson said. “My constituents are entitled to the same.”

Johnson said he has not ruled out pursuing legal action if Senate officials do not comply.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, issued a statement saying Sen. Johnson’s criticism is “without merit” given that as majority leader he only appoints members of the Senate majority to committee assignments.

“Since Sen. Johnson chose not to be a Republican, he is not a member of the majority and is a member of the minority. As rule 34 states, ‘Committee appointments shall be made by the majority leader for members of the majority, after consultation with the president, and by the minority leader for members of the minority, after consultation with the president.’

“His complaints regarding committee assignments should be addressed to the individual with authority to appoint minority members to committee assignments, the minority leader,” Dix office said in its statement. The Senate minority leader currently is Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines.

Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, issued a similar statement, saying that “during the 2017 session, we updated the Senate rules to assure the minority leader will appoint minority members to committees and the majority leader will appoint majority members to Senate committees. We will continue this practice for the 2018 session.”