Within hours of President Donald Trump’s return to the US following his Bastille Day visit to Paris as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron, the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to block a ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii that seeks to expand who can be let into the US under the narrower terms of the Trump travel ban.
The ruling, filed by Honolulu-based US District Judge Derrick Watson on Thursday, found that the administration’s interpretation of the Supreme Court's decision to allow anyone with a "bona fide" relationship with US persons is too restrictive. Watson, an Obama appointee, is the same judge who blocked the administration’s second travel ban back in March, setting in motion a chain of events that led to the Supreme Court's ruling to allow a "narrower" version of the ban to take effect until it has an opportunity to hear oral arguments on the order’s constitutionality when it reconvenes in October.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Court could swiftly issue a ruling accepting, or denying, Watson’s claims about the State Department's interpretation even though the justices recently decamped for a three-moth recess. However, whether the court will choose to act now remains unclear.
As a reminder, Trump’s revised order calls for a 90-day ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, while also suspending the admission of refugees temporarily. The Supreme Court overturned Watson’s decision to block the order while stipulating that any travelers with a “bona fide” connection to individuals or institutions in the US could not be turned away.
Here’s a quick recap of travel-ban related news from the past two days, courtesy of WSJ:
“The latest chapter in the fast-moving saga began Thursday evening in Honolulu, where U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled that the Trump administration’s recent implementation of its ban contradicted the interim rules put in place by the Supreme Court on June 26.
Mr. Trump’s restrictions, which cited terrorism concerns, imposed a 90-day ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, while also suspending the admission of refugees temporarily. Last month’s Supreme Court’s decision allowed the GOP president to enforce the ban against people with no ties to the U.S., but not against people who have close connections to family or institutions in the U.S.
Mr. Trump’s administration took a narrow reading of who qualified for the Supreme Court’s exemption to the ban. But Judge Watson, an appointee of Mr. Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, ruled Thursday that the government must admit a broader class of people than it wanted. That includes extended family members like grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as a wider class of refugees.
The judge found that the Trump administration’s restricted view of who counts as close family ‘represents the antithesis of common sense.’ The administration said its approach was grounded solidly in how close family relationships are defined in portions of federal immigration law.”
Following the SC’s decision late last month, the State Department on June 30 issued a set of “clarifications," relying on a restrictive interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Specifically, Watson has taken issue with one diktat that seeks to answer what represents a “bona fide” family connection. The Trump administration has sought to limit it to the immediate family only – siblings, parents, fiancees and spouses.
But Watson broadened this to include “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons already in the US.”
US District Judge Derrick Watson
Watson has also sought to circumvent the administration's ban on refugees by ruling that the assurance by a resettlement agency to provide basic services to a newly arrived refugee constitutes an adequate connection to the United States because it is a sufficiently formal and documented agreement that triggers responsibilities and compensation.
In the court filing, the Justice Department said Watson's ruling on refugees would make the Supreme Court's decision on that part of the executive order "effectively meaningless,” Reuters reports. Watson’s ruling, if left in place, means refugees can continue to be resettled in the United States, beyond a cap of 50,000 set by the executive order. That limit was reached this week.