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U.S. Supreme Court supports Hawaiian court decision on grandparents and other relatives, but Upholds Refugee Prohibition

In the latest move in the ongoing saga of the administration’s ill-advised travel ban on individuals from certain predominantly Muslim countries, the US Supreme Court let stand a Hawaiian court injunction which prevented the administration from interpreting an earlier Supreme Court ruling to exclude certain relatives of individuals in the US.

The Supreme Court ruling from last month lifted in part the earlier injunctions against the second version of the executive order implementing administration travel ban, but indicated that individuals from the restricted countries with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” should still be permitted in. The ruling also let stand the moratorium on Refugee admissions contained in the executive order.

The administration interpreted the Supreme Court’s ruling very narrowly, indicating through the US Department of State that “bona fide relationship” would not be interpreted to include even close relations such as grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, and brothers- and sisters-in-law.

The State of Hawaii challenged this interpretation of the Supreme Court’s order, winning an injunction from the Federal District Court in Honolulu last week preventing the administration from using such a narrow interpretation, and the administration again appealed to the Supreme Court. The Honolulu district Court order also enjoined the Refugee ban when applied against those already having assurances from refugee resettlement agencies, interpreting the Supreme Court order to say that such an assurance constituted a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship.”

With the Supreme Court’s order, refugees continue to be excluded from the US even with assurances from refugee resettlement agencies – even as a more diverse set of non-refugee relatives remains permitted entry.