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Supreme Court won't force Trump to let grandmas into the U.S. just yet

by Carter Sherman
Sep 11 2017, 4:40pm

The Supreme Court delivered a blow to opponents of President Donald Trump’s travel ban Monday, halting an appeals court decision that would have allowed a larger range of people to enter the country.

The latest ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would have allowed refugees working with a U.S. resettlement agency, as well as grandparents, cousins, and extended family of Americans, to enter the United States. But Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees the Ninth Circuit, stayed that ruling until the fall, when the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the overall constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban.

Most of Trump’s travel ban has been in effect since June, when the Supreme Court ruled to bar travelers from six majority-Muslim countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia — and all refugees from temporarily entering the United States.

But that Supreme Court ruling also mandated the government must allow travelers with a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” to enter the country. The issue now at stake in the courts is what, exactly, a “bona fide relationship” is.

The Trump administration originally interpreted that relationship to include only people whose spouses, fiances, parents, children, in-laws, and siblings — including step- and half-siblings — already live in the United States. In July, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson called that interpretation “the antithesis of common sense,” and opened the door to grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins, as well as refugees vetted by the government, to enter the country.

Department of Justice lawyers appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit, who backed up Watson’s interpretation.

“The government does not offer a persuasive explanation for why a mother-in-law is clearly a bona fide relationship, in the Supreme Court’s prior reasoning, but a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin is not,” the three judges on the Circuit panel wrote in a joint opinion.

Now, however, Americans’ grandmas, in-laws, and cousins — and the estimated 24,000 refugees affected by Trump’s ban — will once again have to wait until fall to find out whether they’ll be able to relocate in the United States.