South Carolina residents may have heard about the controversial statements about immigration that have been made by presidential candidate Donald Trump. He caused a media storm when he called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States. Later, Trump clarified his statement, saying that he did not mean Muslim citizens of the United States, just foreign Muslims.
Trump's comments struck many people as unconstitutional because the immigration plan he proposed would blatantly discriminate against people because of their religion. However, the immigration plan that Trump suggested is likely not illegal. Unlike U.S. citizens, foreign residents who are living outside of the country cannot invoke rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Congress and the president may discriminate against any class of foreigners whenever they see fit.
According to the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, the president can deny non-immigrant and immigrant visas to any class of foreigners if the president believes that the entry of those foreigners would be detrimental to the country. The federal government's right to use its plenary power over immigration has been consistently upheld by the Supreme Court. However, past uses of plenary power have usually involved exclusions that were based on nationality, political beliefs or race. Restricting immigration of foreigners based on their religion would be a new use of plenary power.
If people believe that they were denied a visa because of their religion, nationality or political beliefs, a lawyer might be of assistance. Immigration counsel could look at the original application to determine what may have caused the problem and then help the applicant to convince immigration officials to reexamine their initial decision.