Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court To Reverse New Limits On Travel Ban

A federal judge in Hawaii on Thursday provided exemptions from the travel ban for grandparents and some other family members, as well as additional exemptions for some refugees. The Justice Department asked the justices on Friday night to remove those exemptions. The court called for a response from Hawaii by noon Tuesday.

Less than 24 hours after a district court judge in Hawaii placed additional limits on the federal government's partial enforcement of President Trump's revised travel ban, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling.

The Justice Department, in a statement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, had announced the plans earlier in the day Friday.

On Saturday, the Supreme Court called for Hawaii to respond to the request by noon Tuesday.

The move is the second time the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the travel ban. In late June, the court announced that it would hear appeals of two challenges to the March 6 executive order where the lower courts had barred enforcement of some of the travel and refugee bans.

In addition, in the June 26 ruling, the justices allowed some enforcement of the 90-day ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries and the 120-day halt to the refugee program over the summer before the justices hear the case.

The court held that the bans could not be enforced against those with "a credible claim of a bona fide relationship" with a person or entity in the US, but could be enforced against those lacking such a relationship. The Supreme Court entered a partial stay of the lower court injunctions, which began being enforced three days later.

When the Trump administration announced its view of how that "bona fide relationship" should be defined — a decision that excluded grandparents and grandchildren from being considered "close family" members exempt from the ban — Hawaii went back to court, arguing that the definitions were more narrow than the Supreme Court had intended.

On Thursday night, US District Court Derrick Watson agreed in large part, modifying his injunction to order that the federal government cannot use the executive order to "exclude grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States."

He also ruled that a potential refugee's "assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency" constitutes the sort of "bona fide relationship" that bars enforcement of the executive order against that would-be refugee.

On Friday night, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to clarify its June 26 order to put back both of those restrictions.

Asserting in its brief that "the government identified — and reflected in public guidance — individuals who are not affected by the Court’s stay," Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall wrote that Hawaii "pressed further in an effort to strip this Court’s stay of significant practical consequence.

"The district court adopted both of respondents’ arguments, and denied the government’s request for a stay pending this Court’s review," Wall noted, concluding, "The government therefore is left to seek this Court’s immediate intervention."

In addition to asking the court to end the new exemptions, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court temporarily to put the district court's ruling on hold — a move that would put the administration's interpretation of "bona fide relationship" back in place — until the justices decide how to rule on Friday night's request.

On Saturday, the Justice Department also weighed in at the 9th Circuit — in addition to the Supreme Court. At the appeals court, the department asked for the court to issue a stay pending the resolution of its clarification request at the Supreme Court or pending its appeal of Watson's modified injunction to the 9th Circuit.


This report has been updated to include Saturday developments.

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