Chelsea Ahmann, MJIL Staff Member

Donald Trump has maintained a prominent profile in American society for decades as a real estate mogul and television personality. His latest proclamation to run for presidential office, however, has elevated him to a public status that has already dwarfed his previous standing in American culture. Moreover, an increased propensity for controversial statements based on ethnicity and religious affiliation seems to have accompanied this upshot in publicity, and has accrued a substantial number of critics along the way—most notably, the United Kingdom. Following a petition that amassed over 570,000 signatures, the British Parliament actually sat in January of this year to consider a proposed motion that would bar Trump from entering the country.[1] After the proposal was rejected, however, little media coverage was dedicated to whether the motion could have legally prevailed and why Parliament opted to reject it.

So what’s really going on here? Could the United Kingdom have actually refused to let Trump lay foot on British soil? Have they ever done this before? Since the attempt, have any other countries followed suit? Well, the answer to whether Britain could have legally sustained a ban like this is a resounding yes. It turns out that Parliament could, in fact, have opted to declare Trump a persona non grata in response to the petition. More surprisingly, however, British law actually grants the Home Secretary power to refuse entry, sua sponte, to any foreigner from outside the European Economic Area (the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) that she feels would be non-conductive to the public good.[2] Specifically, Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, Provision 19 provides that “[a] person is not entitled to be admitted to the United Kingdom by virtue of regulation 11 if his exclusion is justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health in accordance with regulation 21.”[3] Accordingly, the Home Office has utilized this power in the past, banning upwards of 100 individuals from entering the country, many times for fostering hatred that could lead to violence.

Although the office has ultimately concluded that it will not be implementing a ban on Trump at the moment, the parliamentary debate in January was far from complimentary towards the real estate tycoon. Even those in opposition of the ban voiced reasons that were unsupportive of his actions, such as a reluctance to bring more publicity to his campaign, and a fundamental belief in freedom of speech, no matter how benighted.[4]

Unfortunately for domestic cities like St. Paul, however, who have also attempted to ban the contentious candidate, the United States lends itself substantially less amenable to allowing a legal ban based on an individual’s pugnacious speech (especially if that ban exists between states within its own boarders). Simply put, the First Amendment protects free speech with utmost veracity, and domestic travel by citizens is unlikely to be restricted because of it.[5] That’s not to say that other cities haven’t tried—or at least voiced a desire—to bar the politician from entering, however. St. Petersburg, Philadelphia, and New York City have all been involved in separate declarations that brand the billionaire’s violent speech unwelcome within their boarders.[6] While it currently appears unlikely that any of these injunctions will actually be adopted and enforced, they do create an interesting question of what foreign (as well as domestic) policy will look like if Donald Trump should be successful in his pursuit to become victor of the 2016 Presidential Election.


 

[1] See Block Donald J Trump from UK Entry, Petitions: UK Government and Parliament, https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114003 (last visited March 30, 2016).

[2] Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, SI 2006/103, art. 19, ¶ 1 (Eng.).

[3] Id.

[4]  See, e.g., Stephen Castle, Edward Leigh, Former Minister, Doesn’t Want to ‘Play into Mr. Trump’s Hands’, NY Times (Jan. 18, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/live/britain-parliament-mps-debate-donald-trump-ban/edward-leigh-former-minister-doesnt-want-to-play-into-mr-trumps-hands.

[5] U.S. Const. amend. I.

[6] Eric Ortiz & Terry Pickard, American Mayors Want to Ban Donald Trump from Cities for ‘Messages of Hate’, NBC News (Dec. 8, 2015), http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/american-mayors-want-ban-donald-trump-cities-message-hate-n476566.