The battle over President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries has sparked a huge debate about whether the ban is aimed at Muslims, and whether it’s legal.
The issue took a series of dramatic turns last week when the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district court ruling overturning the ban, which enraged Trump. Here in Bakersfield, like the rest of the country, the issue has been a hot topic and on Friday’s “The Richard Beene” host Richard Beene jumped into the conversation with local attorney Neil Gehlawat, who works for the Bakersfield firm Chain Cohn Stiles.
It’s historically unprecedented, Gehlawat said of Trump’s attacks on the judiciary via Twitter. “We’ve never really had a president disrespect the judiciary the way President Trump has to the point that his most recent Supreme Court nominee, Judge Gorsuch, has, at least according to some senators, expressed that he finds the President’s comments disheartening.”
During the 30-minute interview, Beene challenged Gehlawat on whether the ban was truly aimed at Muslims.
“(Trump) said preference would be given to Christians from those countries,” Gehlawat said. “They’ve teetered around calling it a Muslim ban but there have been officials, within the Department who have described it as such.”
Beene said that the travel ban was aimed at countries that are “known breeding grounds for terrorism,” and not based on religion, but Gehlawat disagreed with that assessment.
“Actually what happened is the Ninth Circuit asked the lawyer for the Justice Department, on multiple occasions, ‘what evidence do you have that these countries are breeding grounds for terrorists?’ What specific evidence do you have? In almost every occasion the Justice Department lawyer dodged the question.”
In the end, Gehlawat said the Ninth Circuit pushed back against the Justice Department’s assertion that the President had the legal right to decide what’s best for the country when it comes to matters of national security.
“The Ninth Circuit said ‘no we disagree’ there is something in this country called the separation of powers and checks and balances and the judiciary’s responsibility is to interpret the law, and in interpreting the law they determine the executive has crossed the line, or is trying to enforce a law that is unconstitutional that is the judiciary’s responsibility to put a check on that.”