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Judges Push Back Travel Ban Against Family Members, Refugees

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

That Hawaiian judge stopped President Trump -- again.

Judge Derrick Watson, slighted by Trump's legal general as that "judge sitting on an island in the Pacific," blocked the president's controversial travel ban in March. The Trump administration appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily allowed a modified ban, but one issue came back to Watson:

What about relatives of U.S. citizens who travel from those Muslim-majority nations? Watson struck the administration's ban on certain relatives, and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him -- again.

It's headed for another Supreme Court showdown, but this time the president is on the outside looking in. That's because the Supreme Court crafted the modification that Watson applied to extended family members.

'Bona Fide' Family Relationships

The president's last order barred nationals from Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Iran for 90 days and stopped all refugee resettlement for 120 days. Watson said it unconstitutionally discriminated against Muslims.

Federal appeals courts continued to block the ban until June, when the Supreme Court said it could be implemented as long as it did not stop anyone with a "bona fide" relationship in the U.S. Administration officials said that allowed only limited familial relations.

Watson said it should include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and brothers- and sisters-in-law. A Ninth Circuit panel agreed.

"The government does not meaningfully argue how grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States can be considered to have 'no connection' to or 'lack any bona fide relationship' with persons in the United States," the judges said.

Refugee Relationships

Trump's lawyers had also argued that a refugee's relationship to a resettlement agency did not amount to a "bona fide" U.S. connection. Watson's decision cleared the way for 24,000 refugees to travel.

In upholding his decision, the appeals court said its ruling would take effect in five days because the refugees' "lives remain in vulnerable limbo during the pendency of the Supreme Court's stay."

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the travel ban on October 10.

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