Federal Judge Rules Grandparents, Other Close Family Excluded From Trump’s Travel Ban

In a victory for challengers of the Trump administration’s travel ban, a federal court judge late Thursday agreed once again to partially halt the ban of certain foreign nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries on a nationwide basis — a direct rebuke to the government’s attempt to limit the close family members allowed in the US.

John Wider carries a welcome sign near arriving Sikh travelers on the first day of the partial reinstatement of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, temporarily barring travelers from six Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S., at Los Angeles International Airport on June 29, 2017. (Credit: David McNew / Getty Images)

Most specifically, Thursday’s decision means that “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States” will now count as sufficiently close family relationships to gain entry into the country.

The Supreme Court ruled late last month that the administration could employ the travel ban against foreign nationals who lack any “bona fide” relationship to a person or entity in the US, but the state of Hawaii said the administration had wrongfully interpreted that to exclude close family, such as grandparents.

The countries affected are Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

US District Court Judge Derrick Watson — who originally blocked the travel ban back in March — said the Trump administration’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision defied common sense.

“What is clear from the Supreme Court’s decision is that this Court’s analysis is to be guided by consideration of whether foreign nationals have a requisite ‘connection’ or ‘tie’ to this country,” Watson wrote. “Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”

Watson further agreed with Hawaii that a refugee resettlement agency’s “formal assurance” to a refugee seeking admission to the US counts as a sufficiently bona fide relationship as well.

“An assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency, in fact, meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones: it is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations, including compensation, it is issued specific to an individual refugee only when that refugee has been approved for entry by the Department of Homeland Security, and it is issued in the ordinary course, and historically has been for decades,” Watson explained. “Bona fide does not get any more bona fide than that.”

The Trump administration must now appeal this decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in order to get Watson’s order lifted, or appeal directly to the Supreme Court.