Washington • The Trump administration is making a fool of Chief Justice John Roberts.
Administration lawyers told the Supreme Court that Trump's travel ban was not a "Muslim ban" in large part because it grants waivers to those in hardship who don't pose a national-security threat — and Roberts fell for it. In his majority opinion upholding the ban, he cited the waiver program, which helped give the ban "sufficient national security justification" and was similar to "humanitarian exceptions" used during the Carter administration.
Mr. Chief Justice, tell that to the family of little Abdullah Hassan. Two-year-old Abdullah lies dying in an Oakland, Calif., hospital from a rare brain disease. He and his father are both U.S. citizens. But under the travel ban, his Yemeni mother has been blocked from coming to see her son, her requests for a waiver so far ignored — and it appears the child, now on life support, may die before she has a chance to say goodbye.
"My son, Abdullah, needs his mother," the boy's father, Ali, said at a news conference Monday, joined by interfaith religious leaders at the Council on American-Islamic Relations office in Sacramento. "My wife is calling me every day wanting to kiss and hold her son for the last time." Weeping, Ali Hassan continued: "Time is running out. Please help us get my family together again."
This is what President Trump is doing in the name of the American people.
Last week, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock while in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol. Last month, migrant children were hit with tear gas fired by border agents. And this year, hundreds of migrant children were separated from their parents and warehoused in makeshift barracks.
The abuse of the travel ban adds a whole new chapter to the Trump administration's inhumanity toward children. And this time, the administration has essentially lied to the Supreme Court about what it is doing.
"We have always said this travel ban is a betrayal of America's most fundamental values," Neal Katyal, who opposed the ban at the high court, told me Monday. "The administration claimed its waiver process was real, and stories like this show that it was a sham, is a sham and will continue to be a sham. The Democratic House should investigate the facts come January."
Earlier this year, statistics released by the administration showed waivers had been granted to only 2.1 percent of applicants over five months — 579 of 27,129. An affidavit from a former U.S. consular official obtained by Slate indicates personnel were operating under instruction to deny waivers "at all possible cost."
A federal judge in San Francisco last week rebuffed the Trump administration's request that he dismiss a lawsuit claiming that the administration is denying nearly all visa applications from countries under the travel ban, as immigration advocates have alleged. The judge, James Donato, said the case was "not going away at this stage. "
A State Department official on Monday said she could not by law discuss an individual visa case. She said the department had cleared 2,484 applicants for waivers as of Dec. 15, but declined to say how many people had applied. Without this information, it cannot be determined how many have been rejected or ignored.
This matters, because, as Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in the travel ban case: "If the Government is not applying the Proclamation's exemption and waiver system, the claim that the Proclamation is a 'Muslim ban,' rather than a 'security-based' ban, becomes much stronger. How could the Government successfully claim that the Proclamation rests on security needs if it is excluding Muslims who satisfy the Proclamation's own terms?"
Roberts accepted administration assurances that waivers would be granted in cases of "undue hardship," where public safety and the national interest were not harmed.
Now even the imminent death of an applicant's child apparently doesn't qualify as an undue hardship. Perhaps the Trump administration believes the toddler's young mother, Shaima Swileh, now living in Cairo, is a danger to public safety. Or that it serves the national interest to implement a policy with such barbarity.
Ali Hassan, whose family came to the United States in the 1980s, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he brought his Yemen-born son to America five months ago for medical care, but his condition deteriorated, and he has been on a ventilator for the past month.
"Abdullah is only two years old," Ali, in a quavering voice, pleaded Monday. "We celebrated his birthday just two days ago. So I am here today [asking] for your support and help to bring my family together for one last time."
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.