The Hawaii judge who blocked President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on immigration in March placed limits Thursday on how the scaled-back version of the travel ban should be enforced.
In a 26-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson ruled that the Trump administration’s interpretation of a June 26 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court — which allowed portions of the travel ban that applies to six Muslim-majority countries to go into effect — is “unduly restrictive.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday the administration will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 25, the administration announced the temporary rules for enforcing the travel ban under the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying only spouses, siblings, children and parents, as well as certain in-laws, should be exempt from the travel ban.
But Watson ruled that the Trump administration’s rules are “antithesis of common sense” and resulted in “a predetermined and unduly restrictive reading of ‘close familial relationship'” that led “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of persons in the United States” to be unlawfully excluded.
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson wrote. “Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”
Watson also ruled that potential refugees’ “assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency” should be enough to constitute the sort of “bona fide relationship” that the Supreme Court said exempts them from the travel ban.
“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. “Put another way, context matters. And, when appropriately considered in the context of the June 26 order, the government’s narrowly defined list finds no support in the careful language of the Supreme Court or even in the immigration statutes on which the government relies.”
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin hailed Watson’s decision.
“The federal court today makes clear that the U.S. government may not ignore the scope of the partial travel ban as it sees fit,” Chin said in a statement. “Family members have been separated and real people have suffered enough. Courts have found that this executive order has no basis in stopping terrorism and is just a pretext for illegal and unconstitutional discrimination. We will continue preparing for arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in October.”