What constitutes a ‘bona fide’ relationship? Apparently not a grandparent, at least in the eyes of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.
On Monday, 26 June, the Supreme Court decided to allow parts of the Trump administration’s revised travel ban to move forward, while also imposing certain limits, as the court prepares to hear arguments in October on the scope of presidential power over border security and immigration. The court said the ban could not be imposed on anyone who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” However, the court failed to define ‘bona fide’, leaving the door open for the administration to write its own definition.
It did, and on 28 June, the administration issued new guidelines that defined ‘close family’ as a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half. It excluded “grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancés and any other ‘extended’ family members.”
And Donald Trump was happy … very, very happy.
However, on Thursday, 13 July, federal Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii ruled that the ban should not prevent grandparents and other close relatives of residents from entering the United States. He further declared that refugees with ties to a resettlement agency that was committed to receiving them had a relationship that made them eligible to enter the country.
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”
And as regards refugees working through a resettlement agency …
“An assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency, in fact, meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones. It is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations, including compensation, it is issued specific to an individual refugee only when that refugee has been approved for entry by the Department of Homeland Security.”
Needless to say, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not pleased …
“Once again, we are faced with a situation in which a single Federal District Court has undertaken by a nationwide injunction to micromanage decisions of the coequal executive branch related to our national security. The Supreme Court has had to correct this lower court once, and we will now reluctantly return directly to the Supreme Court to again vindicate the rule of law and the executive branch’s duty to protect the nation. By this decision, the district court has improperly substituted its policy preferences for the national security judgments of the Executive branch in a time of grave threats, defying both the lawful prerogatives of the Executive Branch and the directive of the Supreme Court.”
And he wasted no time. On Friday evening the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn Judge Watson’s ruling, arguing that Judge Watson’s interpretation “empties the Court’s decision of meaning,” because it includes “not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members.” On Saturday morning, the Supreme Court filed a motion calling for the Hawaii court to respond to the Trump administration’s request by noon on Tuesday.
Interestingly, I found not a single tweet from Trump himself this time. Of course, he was in France on Thursday when the good judge made his ruling, and then when he returned home on Friday he went to the U.S. Women’s Open, so perhaps he is otherwise occupied.
It should be noted that Judge Watson is the same judge who went against Trump in mid-March, just hours before the 2nd travel ban was set to begin, by issuing a nationwide temporary block to the revised travel ban. Judge Watson is a man who stands behind his convictions and does not allow himself to be bullied. I give him a ‘hats off’ for that!
Sessions and Trump make much of the fact that this ban, which primarily affects Muslims, is necessary to keep the nation safe. The reality is that we do not need to ban refugees from the United States to keep our country safe. Almost every incident of mass murder, or ‘terrorism’ in the U.S. since 11 September 2001 has been committed by U.S. citizens. The refugees who enter this country are families … mothers & fathers bringing their children to a country where they hope they can be safe. Banning them does not keep us safe, and if the administration in Washington is too ignorant to see this, then they need to be replaced with people who have humanitarian values. When the administration sees a terrorist behind every tree, in every grandparent, then they have become paranoid and need to step aside and let some people who listen to facts and make decisions based on those facts and common sense rule the roost.
There is a reason the travel ban has been controversial from the outset. It discriminates based on religion and it would deny sanctuary to those who are most in need. The supporters of the ban are of the notion that they wish to “make America white again”, and they have bought into Trump’s rhetoric that Muslims are all evil, all terrorists, all looking for the means to destroy the U.S. Nothing could be further from the truth. I imagine the Supreme Court will, by the end of next week, overrule Judge Watson’s ruling, and that is sad, for it is in direct opposition to the very values on which this nation was founded.