A US judge has ruled that grandparents and other relatives of people living in the US should be free to enter the country, delivering a fresh blow to Donald Trump's so-called "travel ban".
"Common sense... dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members," District Judge Derrick Watson said.
The ruling also opens the border for grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of US residents from six mainly-Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
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Trump’s initial travel ban was upheld by the US Supreme Court, but the court said that residents of the six countries who had a bona fide relationship with a US person or entity should be exempt.
The White House defined qualifying family member as spouses, parents, children, siblings and fiances. Watson said this was an "unduly restrictive reading" of what constituted a close family relationship, the Washington Post reports.
Under the new ruling, refugees with proof of placement in the US will also be able to enter the country. Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said this would affect an estimated 24,000 people, reports Al Jazeera.
"We are thrilled that thousands of people will be reunited with their family members," she said.
Donald Trump hails travel ban 'victory'
The US Supreme Court yesterday partially lifted the injunction on Donald Trump's travel ban on residents of six Muslim-majority countries, a decision the President hailed as "a clear victory of national security".
He added the ban would come into effect within 72 hours, the London Evening Standard reports.
Trump's executive order, which was blocked in the High Court in March, seeks to place a 90-day ban on people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen entering the US and a 120-day ban on refugees.
Monday's ruling grants a temporary stay to the lower court injunction, allowing the administration to carry out its emergency request to put the order into effect while the legal battle continues.
However, the ban will only apply to new visa applicants and not to people who already have visas or are permanent residents of the US. Nor will it apply to foreign nationals entering the country to visit or live with a family member, a university student or an employee of a US company.
"In practical terms, this means that [the executive order] may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States," the judges wrote.
They added they would consider in October whether the President's policy should be upheld or struck down, giving the administration three months to conduct an "executive review" of its immigration policy and devise new guidelines.
"Mark this down as a win for Donald Trump", says the BBC's Anthony Zurcher. Not only does it enable the embattled President to instigate one of his main campaign pledges, it "also marks a reaffirmation of the sweeping powers the President has traditionally been granted by the courts in areas of national security".
He adds: "The gates to America just got a bit smaller."
Former Labour MP David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, said the partial reinstatement of the ban was a particular threat to "vulnerable people waiting to come to the US", including those with urgent medical conditions.
Not everyone was critical of the judges' ruling, however.
"The fact that the decision was unanimous - joined by even the justices appointed by President [Barack] Obama - shows how utterly lawless the lower-court injunctions were," Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Trump's main rival during the Republican primaries last year, said. "I wish the court would have gone even further."
The New York Times says that with the White House now free to complete its internal review over the summer, the case could be moot by the time it is argued in October.
This is Trump's first major case to go to the Supreme Court, which now has a 5-4 conservative majority following his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the bench in April.
In the first sign that the new make-up of the court could have an impact on the President's agenda, Gorsuch and two other of the court's judges said they would have allowed the travel ban to come into full effect.
Donald Trump's travel ban 2.0: What's changed?
Donald Trump has signed a revised version of his controversial executive order on travel, reinstating a ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries.
The US President's new decree revokes the previous ban signed on 27 January, which caused chaos at airports and sparked waves of protest around the world.
The main differences between the new order and its predecessor are:
- Iraq has been removed from the list of banned nations, after agreeing to additional visa and vetting measures;
- the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees has been lifted and replaced with a 120-day ban;
- the section of the old order giving priority to religious minorities has been removed,
- and specific exemptions for lawful permanent residents have been added.
Additionally, the new order will not come into effect immediately and will be enacted on 16 March, giving border control officials time to put the measures in place.
Republicans reacted positively to the revised order. Senator Lindsey Graham, who was a vocal critic of the original ban, told reporters yesterday he thought Trump had made some important changes.
"I think it's going to stand legal scrutiny [and] it will make the country safer," he said. "It is prospective in application. It's clearly not a Muslim ban - lawful visa-holders' visas will be honoured."
The move "marked a significant retreat for Trump and his administration's vigorous defence of the original travel ban as being within the President's legal authority", The Guardian says.
Homeland security secretary John Kelly said the goal of the new order is to strengthen US border policy for the safety of US citizens.
"The fact remains that we are not immune to terrorist threats and that our enemies often use our own freedoms and generosity against us," he said.
However, the BBC's Anthony Zurcher in Washington says: "It's still an open question as to what, if anything, this order will do to prevent violent attacks on US soil, given that past high-profile incidents have not involved individuals from any of the six named countries."
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