Supreme Court Allows Watered-Down Travel Ban To Take Effect For Now

The ban is one of the president's most controversial campaign promises.
  • People from the six countries listed in President Trump’s travel ban ― Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen ― can only travel to the U.S. if they possess a “bona fide” relationship with the U.S.

  • The vast majority of people who would be coming to the U.S. from these countries can easily prove that relationship.

  • Neither refugees being resettled in the U.S. nor visa holders will be impacted.

The Supreme Court has agreed to review President Donald Trump’s travel ban in October, allowing a limited version of the order to go into effect in the meantime.

Individuals from the six Muslim-majority countries affected by the ban ― Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen ― who have a bona fide relationship with the United States aren’t blocked from entering the country.

The court’s order released Monday said a “close familial relationship is required” for individuals who wish to live with or visit a family member. When the relationship is with an entity like a university, it must be “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading” the executive order.

As an example, they said, students and lecturers would have a formal relationship, as would someone who accepted employment with an American company. But it would not apply to someone who “enters into a relationship simply to avoid” the executive order. For example, the order said, “a nonprofit group devoted to immigration issues may not contact foreign nationals from the designated countries, add them to client lists, and then secure their entry by claiming injury from their exclusion.”

The announcement shouldn’t disrupt most of the people who would otherwise be traveling to the U.S. from these six countries. Many refugees who are resettled in the U.S. come from the six targeted countries, but since they work with federally funded resettlement agencies they should qualify as having a bona fide relationship with the U.S.

“The parts that are allowed to go into effect are actually incredibly narrow,” Becca Heller, executive director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said Monday. “Almost anyone coming to the U.S. who has a visa or who has been in the refugee program has some kind of tie to a U.S. person.”

The scope of what consists of a bona fide tie to the U.S. isn’t clear, and many advocacy groups are worried federal agencies will each interpret it differently. Such differences could lead to confusion yet again at airports, noted Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates. IRAP is preparing to send lawyers to airports across the U.S. in the event that those with visas find themselves detained.

The Department of Homeland Security assured in a statement Monday that it would implement the order “professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers.”

The American Civil Liberties Union responded to the announcement with a message for Trump:

“President Trump’s Muslim ban violates the fundamental constitutional principle that government cannot favor or disfavor any one religion,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the appellate case, said in a statement. “Courts have repeatedly blocked this indefensible and discriminatory ban. The Supreme Court now has a chance to permanently strike it down.”

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to hear this case and the Department of Justice looks forward to arguing on behalf of the President and his constitutional duty to protect the national security of the United States,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “We have seen far too often in recent months that the threat to our national security is real and becoming increasingly dangerous. Groups like ISIS and al Qaeda seek to sow chaos and destruction in our country, and often operate from war-torn and failed countries while leading their global terror network. It is crucial that we properly vet those seeking to come to America from these locations, and failing to do so puts us all in danger.”

Within two weeks of taking office, Trump issued an executive order restricting visits from seven Muslim-majority countries ― the six previously listed plus Iraq ― for three months and suspending America’s refugee resettlement program, arguing that federal officials needed to review the vetting process in the interest of national security.

The order fulfilled one of the new president’s most controversial campaign promises. But the chaotic weekend that ensued ― dozens of people detained at airports and protests nationwide ― also played an early role in defining the Trump administration as clumsy and disinterested in the details and process of policymaking.

Trump signed the order without letting key officials, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, review it beforehand. Customs and Border Protection agents struggled to interpret whether the order applied to green card holders and to those who arrived carrying valid visas. Protests erupted at airports across the country. Apparently unfazed, Trump told reporters the day after signing the order that the travel restrictions were “working out very nicely,” adding that, “you see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

The confusion ended the night of Jan. 29, when a federal judge in Brooklyn issued an injunction to keep key parts of the executive order from going into effect while legal challenges moved forward. The next day, DHS Secretary Kelly formally exempted green card holders from the provisions of the executive order.

In the following months, several other federal judges issued similar rulings saying the order should be halted. Trump signed a second order in March ― this time removing Iraq from the original list of seven countries after negotiations with the Iraqi government ― in an attempt to clean up the legal problems posed by his first order.

But the result was largely the same. Appeals courts in the 9th and 4th U.S. Circuits have upheld injunctions keeping the travel restrictions from going into effect. The Department of Justice appealed both cases, bringing them all the way to the Supreme Court.

While the White House has almost unbridled authority to restrict who is allowed to enter the country, U.S. officials cannot discriminate against visitors for religious reasons. Trump’s bombastic words from the campaign trail came back to haunt him as the courts considered his orders.

“The evidence in the record, viewed from the standpoint of the reasonable observer, creates a compelling case that [the executive order’s] primary purpose is religious,” the 10-3 ruling issued by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May reads. “Then-candidate Trump’s campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims from the United States.”

Trump remained such a staunch defender of his travel ban that he vowed to “fight this terrible ruling,” all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, after a Hawaii federal judge blocked parts of the second ban in March.

Read the court’s order below:

This article has been updated with more information about how refugees will be affected by the order.

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