Donald Trump (C) signs an Executive Order establishing extreme
vetting of people coming to the United States after attending a
swearing-in ceremony for Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) with
Vice President Mike Pence at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S.,
January 27, 2017.Reuters/Carlos
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower
court’s ruling that blocked the Trump administration from
enforcing its travel ban against the grandparents and extended
relatives of people in the US, and refugees with ties to US
A three-judge panel on the appeals court issued a unanimous
ruling Thursday after hearing arguments last month on the
scope of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, which
the Supreme Court allowed in June to partially take effect.
According to the 9th Circuit, close family members and refugees
affiliated with US resettlement agencies should not be prevented
from entering the US under the ban.
“Stated simply, the government does not offer a persuasive
explanation for why a mother-in-law is clearly a bona fide
relationship, in the Supreme Court’s prior reasoning, but a
grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin is
not,” the ruling said.
Under the Supreme Court order, the Trump administration was
allowed to continue enforcing its ban on refugees entering the
US. But it was required to exempt certain travelers from the six
named countries in the ban — Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia,
and Yemen — who could credibly claim a “bona fide relationship
with a person or entity in the United States.”
The order set off confusion on what types of relationships would
qualify under the exemption, and the Trump administration
initially excluded relatives such as grandparents, grandchildren,
aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
The order also prompted controversy over the refugee-related
component of the ban — some critics argued that refugees who
already had ties to American refugee resettlement agencies should
also be considered to have a “bona fide relationship” with an
entity in the US.
A Hawaii court ruled in July that grandparents and cousins must
also be considered “close familial relationships” and therefore
exempt from the ban, and refugees with ties to resettlement
agencies also qualified for the exemption.
“We conclude that in modifying the preliminary injunction to
preserve the status quo, the district court carefully and
correctly balanced the hardships and the equitable considerations
as directed by the Supreme Court,” the 9th Circuit ruling on Thursday said.
According to media reports, all three judges on the 9th Circuit
panel who issued Thursday’s ruling had been skeptical during the
hearing last month of the Trump administration’s argument that
grandparents and other extended relatives could be excluded from
the definition of a “close familial relationship.”
“How can the government take the position that a grandmother or a
grandfather or aunt or uncle of a child in the US does not have a
close familial relationship? Like, what universe does that come
from?” Judge Ronal Gould said at the hearing,
The Trump administration responded that a narrow definition of
“close familial relationship” would be simpler to administer and
was supported by immigration law.
“The government doesn’t dispute that many people have a profound
connection with their grandparents,” Justice Department attorney
Hashim Mooppan said. “That doesn’t mean that for a legal
definition of ‘close family’ that that would count, and Congress
themselves have recognized that.”
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the ban in October.