By: Zack Duvall
A court ruling on Thursday by the U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii, is the latest in legal challenges for the Trump administration’s executive order restricting travel from several countries officials have deemed “terrorist hot spots” around the world.
The ruling came overnight Thursday, and expands on the number of “bona fide” connections to the U.S. a prospective refugee can claim when applying for refugee status and entry into the country. Based on the new court ruling, grandparents are now added to the list of “bona fide” connections, as well as various refugee re-settlement agencies who are actively seeking to assist foreign nationals from the restricted countries looking to re-settle in America.
The state of Hawaii, represented by Hawaii State Attorney Douglas Chin, had asked the court to clarify and interpret a June Supreme Court decision to allow restrictions set by the White House to be put in place, but with the exemption for potential refugees who had a “bona fide connection to the U.S. mainland”.
Up until the new ruling, the “connections” were interpreted to mean Spouses, siblings, children, parents, and fiances, with re-settlements having a 50,000 refugee a year cap. Under the new ruling, that cap also is blocked from being enforced by officials.
Watson’s ruling included harsh rhetoric and criticism of the original order framework not allowing grandparents to be deemed exempt from the restrictions originally. Going so far as to call the it the “antithesis of common sense”.
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members.” Watson wrote in his ruling released Thursday night.
Chin, before the ruling was announced, had slammed the order as “pretext for illegal discrimination” and vowed to continue the fight against the order all the way to the Supreme Court. He said families were being unfairly targeted and broken up as a result of the policy.
” Family members have been separated and real people have suffered enough.” Chin said in a written statement praising the ruling by the court. Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, also expressed support for the latest development in the legal struggle surrounding the executive order.
“We are thrilled that thousands of people will be reunited with their family members.” She told reporters during a press conference after the news of the ruling was made public. She, along with Vice President of refugee advocacy and group HIAS Melanie Nezer, cited that the ruling will allow anyone sponsored by such groups the ability to claim exemption from restrictions as well. A move that will allow an additional 24,000 refugees a year to be re-settled according to Nezer.
Judge Watson did not grant all of the requests made by Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin and his legal team, denying a request to grant exemption from the travel ban to all Iraqi nationals who claim to be in fear for their life because of their involvement with the U.S. government as interpreters, translators, and informants.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to speak to reporters on Friday, but referred to a statement released by the department that stated the travel restrictions and the procedure by which they were implemented were “properly grounded in immigration law.”
The Justice Department is expected to forego filing an appeal, opting instead to focus efforts on the Supreme Court reviewing the matter sometime in the Fall.