A federal judge in Hawaii has ruled that grandparents and other relatives should beÂ exempt from the enforcement of President Trumpâs travel ban, which bars peopleÂ from six Muslim-majority countries.
U.S. District Judge DerrickÂ WatsonÂ ruled ThursdayÂ nightÂ that the federal governmentâs list of family relatives eligible to bypass the travel ban should be expanded to include grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts and other relatives.Â WatsonÂ also ordered exemptions for refugees who have been givenÂ formal assurance fromÂ agencies placing them in the United States.
In Watsonâs ruling, he said the governmentâs definition of what constitutes close family ârepresents the antithesis of common sense.â
âCommon sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,â Watson wrote. âIndeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Governmentâs definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.â
The orderÂ deliveredÂ anotherÂ legal hit to the presidentâs travel ban and a âsweeping victoryâ forÂ those against it, asÂ Neal Katyal, a lawyer for those challenging theÂ measure, wrote. The rulingÂ from Watson, a judge who has frequently been criticized by Trump and his administration for his unfavorable orders,Â marked yet another successful attempt by Hawaii to challenge the administrationâs executive order.
The Supreme Court ruled late last month that the government could begin enforcing theÂ travel restrictions, but not on peopleÂ with âa credible claim of a bona fide relationshipâ with a person or entity in the United States.
The Trump administration then decided to make exceptions forÂ spouses, parents, parents-in-law, children, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, fiances and siblings of those already in the country. However, they barred grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
The government rolled out the measureÂ on June 29, affecting travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.Â As part of the measure, officials could alsoÂ block refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency.
Hawaii had asked Watson to rule on the federal governmentâs interpretation of the Supreme Courtâs ruling on Trumpâs executive order, arguing that the list of exemptions to the travel ban wasÂ too narrow.
In his ruling, Watson wrote thatÂ modifying the scope of the ban is ânecessary to preserve the status quoâ in regards to the governmentâs definition of âclose familial relationship.â The governmentâs use of specific, family-based visa restrictions âconstitutes cherry-picking,â and contradicts the Supreme Courtâs decision late last month, Watson wrote.
Watson also ordered exemptions for refugees that are members of the Lautenberg program, which allows certain nationals of the former Soviet Union and other countries with âclose family in the United Statesâ to apply for refugee status. Refugees through this program wereÂ previously not exempt from the ban because the program includes grandparents and grandchildren as âclose family,â according to Watsonâs ruling.
He also arguedÂ a refugeeâsÂ assurance from an agency satisfies the Supreme Courtâs âbona fideâ relationship requirement because of the formal, binding nature of the contract.
âBona fide does not get any more bona fide than that,â Watson wrote.
As part of his executive order, Trump set a 50,000-person cap on refugee admissions, which the United States already surpassed on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Watson denied a similar request to curtail enforcement and clarify who is exempt from the ban, saying that he would not âusurp the prerogative of the Supreme Court.â But late Thursday night, he ruled that this time around, the plaintiffs had met their burden of establishing why legal relief was necessary.
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