High Court Nixes Bid To Include Grandparents In Travel Ban

Share us on: By Allissa Wickham

Law360, New York (July 19, 2017, 2:17 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday denied the government’s bid to include grandparents and other relatives in its travel ban, dealing a setback to the Trump administration on its travel restriction policy.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court denied the Trump administration's motion for “clarification,” which asked the justices to find the government had correctly interpreted close family relationships to exclude relatives like grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Previously in June, the Supreme Court had agreed to take up the appeal over the ban against nationals from six Muslim-majority nations and granted the government's request to reinstate part of the order. It said that people from the six affected countries who do not have a close family relationship tying them to the U.S. or another “bona fide” connection may not gain entry.

The U.S. Department of State then released guidance clarifying that “close family” would not include grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law or “any other ‘extended’ family members.”

But U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson ruled last week that the travel ban should not apply to those relatives such as grandparents, siblings-in-law and cousins. Judge Watson’s ruling prompted the Trump administration to seek clarification and an administrative stay from the Supreme Court.

In its request to the Supreme Court, the Trump administration asked it to clarify its June ruling by finding that the government had correctly interpreted close familial relationships to exclude grandparents, grandchildren, siblings-in-law and various other relatives. But the high court denied the request, leaving the Hawaii court’s finding in place.

The high court did, however, stay the district court’s order regarding refugees covered by what’s known as a “formal assurance,” pending resolution of an appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Judge Watson had said that the government may not block refugees from entering if they have received a “formal assurance” from a U.S. resettlement agency.

The high court order noted that three of the court’s more conservative justices — Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch — would have stayed the lower court’s order “in its entirety.”

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin released a statement on Wednesday saying the state was correct to argue that the Trump administration had overreached.

“The Supreme Court confirmed the Hawaii federal court order that grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins are indeed close family,” Chin said. “This confirms we were right to say that the Trump administration over-reached in trying to unilaterally keep families apart from each other, in violation of the Supreme Court’s prior ruling.”