The Trump administration is seeking to have the Supreme Court block the actions of a Hawaii-based federal judge who Thursday sought to drastically broaden the numbers of refugees who would be allowed into the country under President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban that took effect this month.
When the Supreme Court ruled June 26 the ban aimed at temporarily halting travel and refugee admissions from nations with high incidence of terrorism could be put in place, it exempted those with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or an entity in the U.S. The court did not define what that meant.
The Trump administration defined a “bona fide relationship” to be limited to those with a parent, spouse, fiance, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the U.S.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii ordered the list be expanded to include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. Watson is the federal judge who initially blocked implementation of Trump’s order on the grounds it was an anti-Muslim order, using Trump’s campaign rhetoric as the basis for his ruling.
The Justice Department’s filing to have the Supreme Court overturn Watson’s latest ruling said his definition of a close relationship “empties the court’s decision of meaning, as it encompasses not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members. Treating all of these relationships as ‘close familial relationship(s)’ reads the term ‘close’ out of the Court’s decision.”
“The government therefore is left to seek this court’s immediate intervention,” the Justice Department said in its filing.
The Trump administration is seeking to bypass the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has consistently ruled against the administration.
The Justice Department filing said that only the Supreme Court can fully determine what it meant by a “bona fide relationship.”
When the court allowed the travel ban to be implemented, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said the exception for those with a “bona fide relationship” would muddy the waters.
“I fear that the court’s remedy will prove unworkable,” Thomas wrote. “Today’s compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding — on peril of contempt — whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country.”
“The compromise also will invite a flood of litigation until this case is finally resolved on the merits, as parties and courts struggle to determine what exactly constitutes a ‘bona fide relationship,’ who precisely has a ‘credible claim’ to that relationship, and whether the claimed relationship was formed ‘simply to avoid’” the executive order, Thomas wrote.
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