Washington — Opponents of President Donald Trump's ban on refugees and visitors from six mostly Muslim countries are urging the Supreme Court to leave in place a federal judge's order that would relax restrictions on entry into the United States.
The lead challengers say in a high court filing on Tuesday 18 July that the administration's argument in favour of a broader travel ban is "nonsense."
The administration is appealing a ruling from US District Judge Derrick Watson that requires the government to allow in refugees formally working with a resettlement agency in the United States.
The State Department on Monday 17 July expanded its definition of "close family" to include grandparents and other relatives that constitute a bona fide US relationship for visa applicants and refugees from six banned countries.
In response to a Hawaii federal judge's order last week, the department instructed US diplomats to consider grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces and first cousins to meet the criteria for applicants from the six countries to receive a US visa.
They had been omitted by the department after the Supreme Court partially upheld the Trump administration's travel ban in June. Initially, it had included only parents, spouses, fiancés, children, adult sons or daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and siblings, but Monday's instructions change that.
'Excluding grandparents defied common sense'
"The ruling is effective immediately and we have issued instructions to our embassies and consulates to use the expanded definition when adjudicating visa cases," the department says.
Under the rules, applicants from the six countries — Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — have to prove a bona fide relationship with a person or entity, including a "close familial relationship" in the US to be exempt from the ban.
Watson ruled that excluding grandparents and others defied common sense. "Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents," he wrote. "Indeed grandparents are the epitome of close family members."
The Trump administration has appealed the Hawaii order to the Supreme Court saying that Watson's interpretation of the Supreme Court's ruling on what family relationships qualify refugees and visitors from the six Muslim-majority countries to enter the US "empties the court's decision of meaning, as it encompasses not just 'close' family members, but virtually all family members. Treating all of these relationships as 'close familial relationship(s)' reads the term 'close' out of the Court's decision."
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