Posted by Rawan Elbaba on June 30, 2017 in Blog

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on injunctions by two federal appellate courts, Hawaii and Maryland, implementing parts of President Trump’s executive order, banning citizens from five Arab countries and Iran for 90 days. 

Although the SCOTUS decision lifted parts of the injunctions against the ban, it did rule that the ban will not be implemented for those “foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” 

According to guidance released by the Trump Administration, spouses, parents, children, siblings or sons and daughters in law, and more recently fiancés of U.S. residents are allowed entry. Initially, the Trump Administration classified fiancés of American residents as travelers who do not have a close enough relationship to the U.S. and thus were barred from entering.

This new guidance, however, excludes grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews of U.S. residents from entering the country from those six Muslim-majority countries.

Other bona fide relationships include students admitted to U.S. schools, workers hired by U.S. companies, or academics invited to speak to American audiences. For more information on the SCOTUS ruling, see our blog post Trump’s Travel Ban at the Supreme Court: What now?

As the ban was officially implemented at 8 p.m. ET on June 29 , Hawaii filed an emergency motion asking the federal court in Honolulu to clarify the scope of bona fide relationships including families and refugees and whether the Trump Administration defined the court’s decision too narrowly. 

Hawaii is claiming that denying entry to grandparents and other family members to the United States is in clear violation of the court’s ruling.

In terms of refugee resettlement, the opinion states that the U.S. cannot bar a refugee from seeking admission if they claim a credible bona fide relationship with a “person or entity in the United States.”

Per the Administration’s guidance issued to diplomatic posts, however, a refugee’s relationship with a U.S.-based resettlement agency would NOT qualify as a bona fide relationship. This limited interpretation is contrary to what many legal analysts believe the Supreme Court intended. Hawaii’s court filing noted that barring refugees with agreements from U.S. resettlement agencies is “preposterous” as a formal connection to the U.S. already been established. 

The ACLU also argues that the Trump Administration’s guidance fails to follow SCOTUS’ opinion. They called the guidance “arbitrary” and “not tied to any legitimate government purpose.”

Refugee groups like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) are calling on the Administration to reverse course on the Muslim ban “before our country denies entry to victims of violence and persecution.”  

This restricted guidance further proves that the order is in fact a discriminatory ban on refugees and immigrants from five Arab and Muslim-majority countries, along with Iran. It serves no purpose other than to disparage the most vulnerable and fear monger. 

As U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson considers Hawaii’s filing, he ordered a response from the Department of Justice by Monday, July 3. Hawaii must then respond by Thursday, July 6. 

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the executive order and its injunctions in October.