With President Donald Trump safely out of the country, joining French President Emmanuel Macron at a Bastille Day parade in Paris, A federal judge in Hawaii has ordered a temporary loosening of the Trump administration’s travel ban after finding that the administration’s strict interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision isn’t justified. The ruling was issued by US District Judge Derrick Watson – a longtime Obama ally and the same judge who blocked the second “watered down” Trump travel ban back in March.
The Wall Street Journal described Watson’s decision as “a fresh legal blow for the president just two weeks after a Supreme Court ruling allowed the administration to implement its travel ban against refugees and foreign nationals from six countries who have no connection to the US.”
Trump's March 6 executive order banned travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, as well as all refugees for 120 days. The Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago that a “narrower” version of the Trump travel ban could take effect, but that anyone from the six countries with a "bona fide relationship" to a US person or entity could not be barred. The Supreme Court has promised to issue a final ruling on the ban in October. The Trump administration then limited a “bona fide” relationship to spouses, parents, children, fiancés and siblings, barring grandparents and other family members - a measure that Trump said was necessary to prevent attacks.
But, according to Reuters, after being prompted by the State of Hawaii to approve the Trump administration's interpretation of the SC ruling, Watson harshly criticized the government's definition of close family relations as "the antithesis of common sense" in a ruling that changes the way the ban can now be implemented. The judge's decision will loosen standards for exclusion, allowing more people into the US who previously would'be been blocked. Unsurprisingly, Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin praised the judge’s ruling on Thursday, saying that the court makes it clear that the administration "may not ignore the scope of the partial travel ban as it sees fit,” according to the Associated Press.
Specifically, the judge’s ruling strikes down one of the key “clarifications” issued by the State Department following the SC ruling: That a “bonda fide” family relationship was limited to immediate family only. Here's the Wall Street Journal.
“Judge Watson said the Trump administration’s ban implementation after the high court ruling tilted the scale too far in its favor and against those travelers with US family connections. He ordered that the ban not apply to “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.”
The judge also ruled that the US can’t turn away refugees who have already been granted formal resettlement agreements.
“Judge Watson also loosened some Trump administration restrictions on what type of US relationships qualify to exempt refugees from the ban. The judge said refugees aren’t subject to the ban if they are covered by a formal admissions agreement between the U.S. government and a refugee resettlement agency.”
It’s already early afternoon in Europe and we’ve heard nothing from Trump, though we’re sure we’ll be hearing from him shortly. To be sure, the struggle to repeal and replace Obamacare is the President’s top policy priority right now. Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn and the rest of the Senate leadership are already struggling to rally support for the bill as three rank-and-file Republicans have already said they won’t vote for it – more than the two lawmakers McConnell could afford to lose and still pass the bill with a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Senate leadership has promised a vote on the bill next week, though it wouldn’t be the first tie such a vote was delayed.