A federal judge in Hawaii modified administration guidance concerning the scope of exemptions to President Donald Trump’s travel ban late Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, the same judge who placed the president’s revised travel ban on hold in its entirety in March, found that an enforcement rule excluding grandparents and a variety of other familial relations from exemptions to the ban is invalid.
“In sum, the government’s definition of ‘close familial relationship’ is not only not compelled by the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision, but contradicts it,” he wrote. “Equally problematic, the government’s definition represents the antithesis of common sense.”
The Supreme Court stayed several lower court rulings barring enforcement of the president’s order in late June, but provided an exemption for foreign nationals possessing a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
The Departments of State and Justice developed guidance for U.S. consular officials concerning the definition of “bona fide relationship,” concluding it applies only to foreign nationals with close, previously established ties to the U.S. The guidance provides that visa applicants from the six countries named in the order must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already residing in the United States in order to claim exemption from the ban.
Extended relations, including grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law do not fall within the scope of the exemption, according to the guidance.
But Watson explained that the Supreme Court’s June ruling and other relevant immigration statutes do not permit the government to selectively exclude familial relations.
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” he writes. “Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”
The judge also expanded the exemptions for potential refugees, finding that refugees can claim a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity if they have secured assurances of assistance from a resettlement agency in the United States.
A Department of Justice spokesman did not immediately return request for comment.
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