Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Clarify Travel Ban Ruling

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Lawyers for the Trump administration went back to the Supreme Court again late Friday in the ongoing battle over President Donald Trump’s travel ban — this time asking the justices to resolve the uncertainty created by last month’s ruling on which foreign nationals are exempt from the ban.

Activists demonstrate as international travelers arrive on the first day of the the partial reinstatement of the Trump 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)

The Supreme Court decided in June that the travel ban must not apply to those people with a “bona fide connection” to a person or entity in the United States while the case is pending full argument this fall. The justices further explained that for “individuals, a close familial relationship is required.”

A federal judge in Hawaii ruled Thursday, however, that the administration’s decision to keep out some foreign nationals with close family members (like grandparents) but not others (like spouses) defied common sense, and was not in line with the spirit of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Justice Department lawyers argued in Friday night’s motion that the justices should now clarify what they meant in June and, in the meantime, place an immediate freeze on the lower court’s decision.

“The district court’s interpretation of this Court’s … ruling distorts this Court’s decision and upends the equitable balance this Court struck,” lawyers said in the motion. “And the district court’s sweeping interpretation of ‘close familial relationship’ … to encompass a wide range of distant relatives — including cousins, uncles, and siblings-in-law — effectively eliminates the ‘close’ requirement and has no basis in this Court’s ruling.”

Justice Clarence Thomas predicted in June that the Court’s “compromise” decision would prove unworkable.

“The compromise will invite a flood of litigation until this case is finally resolved on the merits,” he wrote in dissent.

The justices may ask for the state of Hawaii to respond to the Justice Department’s motion before issuing a decision on the latest dispute.

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