Friday, July 14, 2017

Judge expands travel ban's "family' to include grandparents, aunts and more

Judge Derrick Kahala Watson

THE DEFINITION of family was expanded by a federal judge as it applies to the slimmed down version of a travel ban ordered by Donald Trump.

Grandparents, aunts and uncles and other relatives of people living in the U.S. can no longer be barred from entering the U.S., ruled Judge Derrick Kahala Watson in Hawaii.

It is another blow to Trump's already truncated order that attempts to limit travel from six predominantly Muslim countries.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he would bring Watson's ruling to the Supreme Court.

When the High Court ruled last month that parts of Trump's travel ban could be implemented, it left the definition of "bona fide" family ties to the administration. Watson said Thursday that the State Department had interpreted the Supreme Court ruling too narrowly.

The State of Hawaii challenged the administration's definition of what was a close relative.

Watson condemned the government's definition of a close relative as "unduly restrictive" especially for Asian families who consider grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins part of the immediate family, not the extended family.

"Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members", he wrote.

In yet another rebuke to the Trump administration, Watson also said that refugees who have “formal assurance” from U.S. resettlement agencies for relocation to the country — even if the refugees do not have relatives in the U.S. — cannot be prevented from entering.

Watson added that a refugee with a commitment from a resettlement agency met the standard for the “bona fide” relationship referred to in the Supreme Court order.

“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,” he wrote.

“Bona fide does not get any more bona fide than that,” he said.

"By this decision, the district court has improperly substituted its policy preferences for the national security judgments of the Executive branch in a time of grave threats, defying both the lawful prerogatives of the Executive Branch and the directive of the Supreme Court," Sessions said.

The Supreme Court is not currently in session but the justices can handle emergency requests. The administration's application could be directed either to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has responsibility for emergency requests from western states, or to the nine justices as a whole.

"The truth here is that the government’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s stay order defies common sense," said Omar Jadwat, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. "That’s what the district court correctly found and the attorney general’s misleading attacks on its decision can’t change that fact."