Hawaii Takes Fight for Clarity of Travel Ban Rules to 9th Circuit

HONOLULU (CN) – A federal judge in Hawaii ended his streak of decisions against President Donald Trump on Thursday by denying the Aloha State’s emergency request to clarify his injunction against the president’s travel ban – a denial Hawaii promptly appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

Attorneys for Hawaii filed the motion late last week after Trump ordered State Department officials to curtail immigration of family members from six predominantly Muslim countries. The president’s orders also gave consulates an out of admitting sponsored refugees.

Trump’s latest orders stem from a June 26 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to take up U.S. District Judge Derek Watson’s block of the travel ban. The high court also stayed a portion of Watson’s injunction, and the president responded by issuing a revision that subjects “extended family” members like grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law to the travel ban.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin responded to the Supreme Court’s stay and Trump’s subsequent order by asking Watson to clarify what the Supreme Court meant by “close familial relationship.” Watson politely declined, noting, “It is evident that the parties quarrel over the meaning and intent of words and phrases authored not by this court, but by the Supreme Court.”

In his three previous rulings, Watson never used the term “close family,” nor did he undertake to define such. In a discussion of legal standing only, he found plaintiff Ismail Elshikh and family would suffer harm if his mother-in-law were forced to submit to a 90-day waiting period.

The Supreme Court agreed with Watson as to Elshikh, and said, “For individuals, a close familial relationship is required. A foreign national who wishes to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member, like Doe’s wife or Dr. Elshikh’s mother-in-law, clearly has such a relationship.”

But Watson declined to interpret what the Supreme Court meant.

“Because plaintiffs seek clarification of the June 26, 2017 injunction modifications authored by the Supreme Court, clarification should be sought there, not here,” Watson wrote, pitching the semantic hot potato back to plaintiffs.

On Friday, Hawaii appealed Watson’s order to the Ninth Circuit in hopes an appellate panel will clarify who’s exempt from the travel ban.


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