Hawaii Continues to Fight Feds on Travel Ban Details

HONOLULU (CN) — The state of Hawaii is again urging a federal judge to clarify his block of President Trump’s travel ban.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson in March stalled enforcement of the travel ban – which restricted immigration from six Muslim-majority nations – but he declined to clarify his ruling last week. He said that the matter turned on the Supreme Court’s use of the term “close family” in a preliminary ruling two weeks ago to determine who should be eligible to enter the country now that the high court has issued a temporary stay on enforcing certain portions of the travel ban block.

Upon appeal, however, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Judge Watson may indeed enforce or modify his own injunction.

Justice Department attorney Brad Rosenberg disagreed, arguing in court documents filed in the District of Hawaii Tuesday that the court lacks enforcement or modification authority. Rosenberg also elaborated on the Trump administration’s definition of “close family,” leaning on a formulation in the Immigration and Nationality Act that focuses on the children, spouses and parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin responded in a brief filed Wednesday that Hawaii is only following the “precise roadmap” laid out by the Ninth Circuit, while “the government tries every possible avenue” to defy the Supreme Court’s directive that anyone with a “bona fide relationship” to this country cannot be denied entry.

Chin continued, “The Government has spent two weeks carrying out its unconstitutional order against the vulnerable and the weak.” Chin’s brief cites a Ukrainian granddaughter attempting to reunite with her 93-year-old grandmother, a refugee stranded in Malawi while his uncle waits for him here, and “countless individuals” promised resettlement by a dedicated refugee organization.

Rosenberg countered that an assurance from a refugee resettlement agency does not constitute a bona fide relationship and that resettlement is contingent upon a contract between the agency and the government. According to Rosenberg, Hawaii’s “blanket approach” to admitting refugees would eviscerate the Supreme Court’s stay.

Rosenberg may be conflating the portion of Watson’s injunction that protects refugees, which the Supreme Court left intact, with the injunction against the 120-day ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries, which the Supreme Court overturned.

Rosenberg continued, “Plaintiffs would have the court modify its injunction by adding requirements that, at best, appear nowhere in the Supreme Court’s opinion.”

Chin accused the government of manufacturing ad hoc rules, including its “newly minted rationalization” relying on immigration laws to establish a strict definition of “family.”

Such guidelines, Chin said, would preclude plaintiff Ismael Elshikh’s mother-in-law from coming into the country, for example, even though the Supreme Court ruling granted her protection. “It defies credulity that this is what the Supreme Court had in mind when it mentioned Dr. Elshikh’s mother-in-law,” Chin wrote.

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