Sunday, December 10, 2017
Editorials

Another voice: Self-defeating? Yes. Legal? Maybe

The speed and enthusiasm with which two federal courts halted President Donald Trump's latest travel executive order might suggest that the revised policy is as obviously problematic as the last, which was a sloppy rush job that the government poorly defended in court. In fact, the revised policy, while still more likely to harm than help national security, is legally far more defensible. Decades of precedent instruct judges to defer to the executive branch on immigration and national security matters such as this. It should surprise no one if the Supreme Court eventually allows the Trump administration to proceed.

Among other problems, Trump's first order essentially broke faith with foreigners who already had commitments from the government, violating their right to due process. In contrast, the revised order would not deny entry to lawful permanent residents or visa holders.

Two federal district court judges nevertheless blocked implementation of the new order last week, finding that it violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which demands separation between church and state. Judge Derrick K. Watson relied on previous rulings that government actions "must have a primary secular purpose" as he rejected the national security rationale the Trump administration offered and concluded that Trump's transparent aim was "temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims." Watson used the president's previous calls for a Muslim ban, along with a variety of more recent statements from Trump associates, as evidence of Trump's discriminatory intent.

But as a thoughtful counterpoint from five judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit pointed out, the Constitution expressly stipulates that Congress can set naturalization policy, and Congress did so in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 — which delegates the president broad authority to "suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants." In the past, when the executive branch's use of that authority has conflicted with other constitutional principles, such as freedom of speech and freedom of association, courts have been deferential to the executive, acknowledging that immigration policy is a complex subject in which a variety of interests can and do motivate decisions and in which the courts should be wary of substituting their judgment for that of the political branches. In general, courts bow to the government as long as it provides "a facially legitimate and bona fide reason" to act.

Even using that deferential standard, critics could argue that the national security justifications the Trump administration has provided for its order are too thin; as a policy matter, the order lacks the support of logic or evidence, despite the Trump administration's late efforts to locate some. They could also argue that the establishment clause interests are so strong that the courts must try to ascertain the president's authentic motivations, as they have in other contexts.

But judges may well flinch at the prospect of conducting a trial to ferret out the president's intentions and to craft new boundaries for the nation's immigration policy, restrictions that could be binding on Trump's successors. The critics have a strong case that the president's executive order is self-defeating and offensive to American values. But it is far from clear that the courts will deem it illegal, too.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17