The Supreme Court has sided with a Hawaii court order to exempt grandparents and other relatives from the Trump administration’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries—a win for opponents of the travel ban. The Court did not, however, make a direct ruling on the government’s restrictions on the refugee resettlement program.
The decision is the latest ruling after months of legal battles, and revisions, to the Trump administration’s ban on nationals from Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, which has been struck down by multiple federal judges.
Days after the Supreme Court allowed parts of the travel ban in June, the Trump administration limited entry of individuals who lacked a “bona fide relationship” with someone in the US. According to the government, “Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancees or other extended family members” failed to qualify as close relationships. The administration also argued that a refugee resettlement agency’s vouch was “not sufficient” as a close relationship.
Honolulu Federal District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson issued a court order rejecting the administration’s definition of relationships. “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.”
“An assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency, in fact, meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones: it is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations,” he continued. “Bona fide does not get any more bona fide than that.”
In response, the Trump administration filed a motion requesting clarification from the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court sided with Watson on familial relationships, meaning that foreigners from the six countries with families in the US have the ability to enter as “close family.” However, the Court has stayed the injunction on refugee resettlement agencies and has asked the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to review the policy. The order notes that the three conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, “would have stayed the District Court order in its entirety.”