On October 17, 2017, a federal judge in Hawaii partially blocked the third iteration of the Trump administration’s travel ban. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson issued a temporary restraining order blocking the travel restrictions for nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen hours before the restrictions were to go into effect; the ban for Venezuelan and North Korean nationals was not at issue and is in full effect as of today. In his decision, Judge Watson found that the travel ban lacked specific evidence to demonstrate that banning the entry of nationals of these nations would be in the best interests of the United States.
Following Judge Watson’s decision, on October 18, 2017, Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a second block to the travel ban. Judge Chuang’s decision is more limited in scope than Judge Watson’s, as it only blocks the Trump administration from enforcing the ban against those who lack a “bona fide” relationship with a person or entity in the United States, including parents, children, siblings or other close family members.
The Trump administration had imposed new travel restrictions on certain nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen via a presidential proclamation issued on September 24, 2017, in furtherance of Executive Order 13780. Under the presidential proclamation, nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen were banned from entering the United States indefinitely, and the proclamation imposed additional restrictions on the issuance of certain nonimmigrant visas to nationals of six of those countries.
The presidential proclamation banned the issuance of all nonimmigrant visas except student (F and M) and exchange (J) visas to nationals of Iran, and it banned the issuance of business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas to nationals of Chad, Libya, and Yemen. The proclamation further suspended the issuance of business, tourist, and business/tourist visas to specific Venezuelan government officials and their families, and wholly barred the receipt of nonimmigrant visas by nationals of North Korea and Syria.
This was President Trump’s third executive order or proclamation addressing a travel ban. The Supreme Court of the United States had agreed to hear oral argument on the first two travel bans, but recently postponed the hearing.
Much like the previous court decisions that enjoined the first and second travel bans, the decisions from Judge Watson and Judge Chuang are likely to be appealed; for now, however, the administration is unable to restrict the entry of travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen. This is good news for foreign national employees who may have been subject to the restrictions of the executive order. Employers and their foreign national employees should nevertheless keep in mind that the recent injunctions will likely be appealed, and if the government is successful, foreign nationals from the six countries could risk being denied entry to the United States after any international travel.