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Close Family Relatives and Refugees May Enter United States, Federal Appeals Court Rules

This afternoon the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the July 13, 2017 Hawaii district court order in the travel ban case, Hawaii v. Trump, allowing the entry to the United States of close family members and refugees with formal assurances from a United States resettlement agency.

Click tor read full opinion

On June 26, 2017, the United States Supreme Court issued an order in this case that the travel ban could not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States, including those with a “close familial relationship.” The same standard applies with respect to refugee admissions. The federal government subsequently issued guidance that such “close familial relationships” did not include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of people currently living in the United States.

Attorney General Chin said, “Today’s decision by the 9th Circuit keeps families together. It gives vetted refugees a second chance. The Trump administration keeps taking actions with no legal basis. We will keep fighting back.”

The Ninth Circuit’s order states in part:

[I]t is clear that the Supreme Court’s use of “close familial relationship[s]” meant that the Court wanted to exclude individuals who have no connection with the United States or have remote familial relationships that would not qualify as “bona fide.” The Government does not meaningfully argue how grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States can be considered to have “no connection” to or “lack any bona fide relationship” with persons in the United States. Nor does the Government explain how its proposed scope of exclusion would avoid the infliction of concrete hardships on such individuals’ family members in the United States. Stated simply, the Government does not offer a persuasive explanation for why a mother-in-law is clearly a bona fide relationship, in the Supreme Court’s prior reasoning, but a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin is not.

*** The Government offers no explanation as to why it relied on its selected provisions of the INA, while ignoring other provisions of the same statute as well as other immigration laws. The INA was implemented with “the underlying intention of . . . preservation of the family unit.” The Government’s artificially narrow interpretation of close familial relationships directly contradicts this intention.

*** Resettlement agencies will face concrete harms and burdens if refugees with formal assurances are not admitted. In the same way that the Court considered the harms of the U.S. citizen who wants to be reunited with his mother-in-law and the permanent resident who wants to be reunited with his wife, the employer that hired an employee, the university that admitted a student, and the American audience that invited a lecturer, the district court correctly considered the resettlement agency that has given a formal assurance for specific refugees.

*** Refugees’ lives remain in vulnerable limbo during the pendency of the Supreme Court’s stay. Refugees have only a narrow window of time to complete their travel, as certain security and medical checks expire and must then be re-initiated. Even short delays may prolong a refugee’s admittance.

A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s decision is attached.

Oral arguments on the merits of the travel ban appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled to occur on October 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

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