Hawaii Challenges Travel Ban’s Family Rules as Partial Ban Begins

(CN) – Hawaii’s attorney general filed an emergency motion Thursday asking a federal judge to clarify the scope of a preliminary injunction he placed on President Donald Trump’s travel ban in March.

The motion claims that the administration’s intent to move forward following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday runs afoul of both courts’ instructions.

While the justices allowed some elements of Trump’s travel ban to go into effect pending their review of his executive order in October, they also affirmed U.S. District Judge Derek Watson’s ruling against preventing close family members from visiting a person in the United States, citing the “concrete harm” that would befall those like Hawaii plaintiff Ismail Elshikh, whose Syrian mother-in-law would be subject to the ban’s 90-day waiting period.

In their ruling the justices said the Trump administration cannot impose the ban on anyone who has a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

However, the justices did not define what they meant by the phrase “bona fide relationship.”

On Wednesday night, the State Department issued its interpretation, telling its international staff that it defines a close family as being “a parent (including parent-in-law), a spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-­in­-law, daughter­-in-­law, and sibling, whether whole or half. This includes step relationships.”

But the State Department also listed a number of relationships that it does not include in its definition of a “close family.”

Not making the cut are grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers­-in-­law and sisters-in-­law, fiancés and any other “extended family members.”

The partial travel ban, which applies to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, went into effect at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday.

Meanwhile Hawaiian Attorney General Douglas Chin, filing on behalf of Elshikh and the state, asked Judge Watson to “clarify that the federal government may not enforce the controversial bans against fiancés, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.”

Watson earlier held the ban violated the establishment clause of the Constitution, agreeing with plaintiff’s arguments that the President’s campaign rhetoric calling for a Muslim ban were an undeniable subtext for his executive order.

Chin also claims the government acted illegally in instructing consulates to delay the refugees traveling to the United States they are unsure of refugees’ relationship with a U.S. resettlement agency.

“The Government does not have discretion to ignore the Court’s injunction as it sees fit,” the motion says. “This Court should clarify as soon as possible that the Supreme Court meant what it said, and that foreign nationals that credibly claim connections with this country cannot be denied entry under the President’s illegal Order. ”

Chin also expressed dismay over what he described as administration “stonewalling,” saying that despite numerous requests for guidance, he only received word of the administration’s plans when it sent its draft guidance to consular offices Wednesday night.

He said he only received formal documentation from the administration — in the form of a one-page letter accompanied by documents that had already been made public — about three hours before the government began enforcing its new rules.

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