The Supreme Court recently ruled that grandparents and other close family members of refugees from six Muslim-majority countries can enter the United States, temporarily exempting them from President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
This ruling is the latest order in the legislative battle over the travel ban since President Trump gave the executive order in January to bar people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Since its inception, the travel ban has been contested by lower courts in several states. In June, the courts revised the legislation to allow people with a “bona fide connection” to a person or entity in the United States to enter the country.
Based on this ruling, the Trump administration set guidelines for who would be admitted to the United States. However, a lower court in Hawaii ruled that Trump’s interpretation of “bona fide connection” was too narrow, as it only included parents, son or daughter, siblings, spouse, fiance, son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Such an interpretation would “unilaterally keep families apart from each other,” said Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin in a statement.
The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court’s decision to expand the definition of close familial connection to include grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, parent-in-laws and others. A “bona fide relationship” also includes those enrolled at an American university or with an employment offer.
The Supreme Court’s decision further enforces that the Trump administration cannot place a blanket prohibition for people of Muslim-majority countries from entering the country, and signals a partial defeat for Trump’s role in the travel ban. However, the justices did grant the government’s request to put a hold on an order that would have made it easier for refugees working with resettlement agencies to enter the country. About 24,000 refugees will be denied entry due to this hold.
While President Trump has defended the ban as an effort to protect the country, it has been challenged as an unconstitutional effort of keeping Muslims out of the United States.
“The executive order is an unconstitutional effort to ban Muslims from entering the country, in large part, because it was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, despite its stated religiously-neutral purpose,” said Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney based in Austin, Texas.
“While the President does have wide latitude in setting immigration policy and in preserving national security, those powers are not limitless and cannot be exercised arbitrarily,” Finkelman said.
“Therefore, unless the current administration is very careful and only denies entrance to individuals in very limited circumstances, it is likely to face legal challenges over the definition of “bona fide” relationship.”
The travel ban has not seen the end of its legislative battle. In October, the Supreme Court is set to hear the merits on the arguments challenging the administration’s travel ban.