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Three Court Actions Show the Judiciary’s Limits as a Check on Trump’s Worst Instincts

 

“The only reliable backstop to prevent Trump from completely rewriting immigration policies, the Constitution and our system of checks and balances is to vote him out of office.”

Three recent court rulings and actions show the limits of relying on the courts to serve as a backstop to mitigate the worst of President Trump’s policies to restrict immigration or his efforts to disobey the expressed will of Congress. 

On Monday, a federal judge in San Diego ruled that the administration’s current policy of taking children from their parents was not a violation of the same judge’s earlier order that stopped the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” family separation policy in 2018. Judge Dana Sabraw ruled that more than 1,000 children taken from their parents because the government determined that their parents may be a threat to them — often on the basis of flimsy evidence or prior traffic violations — was legal under the court’s previous injunction. So the administration’s current policy of taking children from their parents will be allowed to continue.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court announced it has agreed to review a nationwide injunction that has so far prevented the Trump administration’s restrictive “public charge” rules from taking effect. The Trump administration has previously used this tactic of asking the Supreme Court to issue an emergency ruling because the Court has demonstrated they are willing to help the President by honoring requests to lift nationwide injunctions that prevented implementation of the worst of Trump’s immigration policies. In so doing, the Roberts court has increasingly appeared to act as the judicial arm of the Trump White House and reelection campaign.

Finally, a ruling from the Fifth Circuit a week ago gave a green-light to Trump’s effort to take $3.6 billion that Congress approved for military construction projects to use for border wall construction. Now, the Washington Post reports that the President intends to take $7.2 billion in money approved for the military and narcotics interdiction and divert it to wall construction. To date, according to the Wall Street Journal, the President has amassed $18 billion for wall construction, against the wishes of Congress, which he will use to take private land and delicate natural habitat to build his ineffective and xenophobic wall.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: 

The Trump presidency is defined not by policies to serve the best interests of the country, but simply by what policies the President is able to get away with when Congress and the courts are unable to stop him. Every day he challenges our system of checks and balances to push outrageous policies and so far, neither Congress nor the courts have been reliable counterweights. Majority Leader McConnell has the Senate on lockdown, blindly supporting Trump and not allowing policies — even those overwhelming supported by the House and the American people — to move forward. 

The Judicial Branch has been sporadically helpful in blunting Trump’s worst instincts, but has also shown the limits of its abilities to thwart Trump’s policies on immigration, especially as the Supreme Court has demonstrated its willingness to help Trump achieve his policy and campaign goals.  

The only reliable backstop to prevent Trump from completely rewriting immigration policies, the Constitution and our system of checks and balances is to vote him out of office. Relying on Congress — even when they rightly agree to limit border wall spending, for example — has not succeeded in stopping Trump’s cruel and chaotic policies.  And the courts are an unreliable watchdog in protecting the country from Trump’s overreaches. In the end, the American people will have to enact a course correction at the ballot box later this year.