Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu has enjoined the federal government from using President Donald Trump’s partially reinstated travel ban to bar grandparents and other close relatives from entering the United States. He also has enjoined the government from banning refugees who are the beneficiaries of a sponsorship assurance from a resettlement agency.
When the U.S. Supreme Court partially reinstated the travel ban, it held that the ban could not be applied to individuals who have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Following that ruling, the government issued guidance interpreting what would constitute a “close familial relationship” for purposes of showing such a bona fide relationship. On the family side, the close relationship was limited to parents (including in-laws), spouses, fiancés, children, adult sons and daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and siblings including step-siblings and other step-family. The government specifically excluded grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law or other extended family. On the refugee side, the government concluded that assurances from resettlement agencies on their own would not exempt an individual from the travel ban.
The State of Hawaii, along with 15 other states and the District of Columbia, challenged the administration’s narrow interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding family members and refugees. The exclusion of grandparents in particular had become a public flash point. In his ruling, Judge Watson noted that “the Government’s definition represents the antithesis of common sense. Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”
All indications are that the government will appeal. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that “[t]he Supreme Court has had to correct this lower court once, and we will now reluctantly return directly to the Supreme Court to again vindicate the rule of law and the executive branch’s duty to protect the nation.”