Grandparents and other family members are temporarily exempt from the travel and refugee bans implemented by President Donald Trump, the US Supreme Court said Wednesday.
The court also said that for the time being, a ban on entry by refugees already working with resettlement agencies may remain.
The Supreme Court did not explain its reasons in a brief order July 19. It said the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals must consider further arguments about who is included in the ban under Trump’s executive order. Supreme Court justices will hear further arguments about the executive order Oct. 10.
The Trump administration had argued that an exemption for close family members should not apply to grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and brothers- and sisters-in law.
A federal court in Hawaii said that definition of close family was too strict.
The ban bars travel into the U.S. for 90 days by nationals of Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, all predominantly Muslim countries. It halts all refugee resettlement for 120 days. The first version of the ban, which had a broader impact, was announced in January, then blocked in federal court. A revised version was announced in March, then blocked by legal challenges.
In June the Supreme Court restored the ban, while saying those with “bona fide” links to the U.S. were exempted: close family members, employment, university admission, or relationships with other institutions.
Hawaii was among the challengers of the revised ban. It also argued that a refugee organization’s interactions with a refugee qualify as a bona fide relationship. About 24,000 refugees have formal assurances with resettlement agencies for relocation assistance.
However, the Supreme Court rejected that argument, thus allowing the U.S. government to halt efforts to grant entry to these refugees.
The order was not signed, though it stated that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the Trump administration’s request to put the lower court’s entire order on hold.
Trump had presented his order as a temporary anti-terrorism measure. The Trump administration has also lowered the cap on refugee admissions to 50,000 people per fiscal year. That cap was reached July 13.
In March the U.S. bishops had warned that security concerns could overshadow real human beings.
“Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life,” the bishops said. “They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: ‘We are with you’.”
“It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity,” said the March 22 statement from the US bishops’ conference’s administrative committee.