Relatives of American citizens from six majority-Muslim countries will no longer be selectively barred from the United States following a federal judge’s ruling in Hawaii on Thursday. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson described the State Department’s recent guidance—which barred aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws and grandparents but not parents, spouses, fiances, children, or in-laws—as “the antithesis of common sense.”
The travel ban guidelines overturned this week were shared with US embassies and consulates in late June. They are the State Department’s interpretation of recent Supreme Court guidance, after the highest court agreed to hear arguments on the Trump Administration’s travel ban this October. In the meantime, the Supreme Court said, only nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen with a “bona fide” relationship to a US citizen could enter the country.
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson wrote in his decision, published by the Washington Post. “Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”
“This is another demonstration in the courts of how absolutely preposterous the Muslim Ban is,” said Daniel Altschuler, a spokesman for Make the Road New York, following the decision.
The original 90-day travel ban caused chaos in airports across the country in January, and was quickly batted down in the courts. Trump signed a second version of the ban on March 6, barring nationals of six countries from applying for visas for 90 days and pausing the refugee program for 120 days. This, too, was shot down in Hawaii and Maryland.
At a rally last month, immigrant advocates said selective restrictions on relatives would impact families in the states.
“We all know what this means for so many people here in New York,” said Naz Ahmad, an attorney with CUNY CLEAR. “The fact that grandparents can’t visit their own grandchildren, you can’t attend a cousin’s wedding, a niece or a nephew’s graduation.”
Thursday’s ruling also stated that refugees with existing agreements with resettlement agencies are exempt from the ban, overturning the DOJ’s guidelines.
“We are reviewing the decision and will be in consultation with DOJ to ensure immediate implementation,” a Department of State spokeswoman stated.
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