Grandparents Win Reprieve From Trump Travel Ban in Federal Court – New York Times
LOS ALTOS, Calif. — A federal judge in Hawaii ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration’s temporary ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries and on refugees should not prevent grandparents and other close relatives of residents from entering the United States.
The judge, Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu, also declared that refugees with ties to a resettlement agency that was committed to receiving them had a relationship that made them eligible to enter the country.
The decision, a victory to opponents of the ban first issued in January, is expected to open the gates for thousands of refugees who have been cleared to enter the United States but who lacked the close relationships as defined by the Trump administration.
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Last month, the United States Supreme Courtruled that a scaled-back version of the travel ban could proceed. Applicants who could show a “bona fide relationship” with a “person or entity” in the United States would be exempt from the 90-day ban on travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and the 120-day ban on refugees from around the world.
The Supreme Court did not specify which individuals or entities would qualify as close relations. However, the State Department said that they would include spouses, parents, parents-in-law, children, sons- and daughters-in-law and siblings of those already in the United States. They would not include grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law. It also decided that a resettlement agency’s relationship to those it planned to settle in the United States would not circumvent the ban.
Hawaii challenged the administration’s interpretation of what constitutes a close relationship. Judge Watson agreed that the White House contradicted the Supreme Court’s order.
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” he wrote. “Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”
The judge also said that a refugee’s ties to a resettlement agency met the standard set by the Supreme Court for a bona fide relationship to an entity in the United States.
“An assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency, in fact, meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones,” he wrote. “It is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations, including compensation, it is issued specific to an individual refugee only when that refugee has been approved for entry by the Department of Homeland Security.”
About 60 percent of all refugees admitted to the United States last year had family ties. That figure drops to about 25 percent for those from Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among the most common sources of refugees in recent years.
Under his executive order, Mr. Trump capped the number of refugee admissions in the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30 at 50,000, down from 110,000 allowed by President Barack Obama.
The Fourth and Ninth Circuit appellate courts upheld challenges to the ban. The Supreme Court then agreed last month to allow a partial ban to proceed until it hears arguments in the fall about whether the president’s executive order unconstitutionally discriminates against Muslims.
Correction: July 14, 2017
An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the State Department’s list of who would qualify as close relatives included fiancés. They were not included.
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