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NYT: Appeals Court Limits Trump Travel Ban and Allows More Refugees

Appeals Court Limits Trump Travel Ban and Allows More Refugees

Miriam Jordan reports for The New York Times on the September 7, 2017 edition about the Appeals Court ruling on Trump’s Travel Ban and How it Benefits Refugees:

“A federal appeals court on Thursday reopened the country’s door to thousands of refugees who had been temporarily blocked by President Trump’s travel ban, and also upheld a lower court decision that had exempted grandparents and other relatives from the ban.

“The ruling, from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Seattle, was cheered by refugee resettlement organizations, and clarified, for now, who was covered by the ban.

“In June, the Supreme Court allowed parts of President Trump’s executive order temporarily barring all travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries, and all refugees, to take effect while the court considered arguments over whether such a ban was constitutional. But the court said the government should let in travelers and refugees with a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” without fully defining what that meant.

“The administration defined it as immediate family members and in-laws, but not grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. It also excluded refugees whose only tie to the United States was to the resettlement agency that was working to bring them into the country.

“In July, Judge Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu disagreed with that interpretation for both refugees and relatives, and the administration appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Justice Department lawyers argued that only parents, children, siblings and in-laws constitute close relatives. But the three judges of the appellate court, Michael Hawkins, Ronald Gould and Richard Paez, all appointees of President Bill Clinton, upheld Judge Watson’s decision on Thursday.

““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 37-page opinion said.

“They also said that working with a resettlement agency meets the standard for a “bona fide” relationship with an entity in the United States. Justice Department lawyers argued that a resettlement agency has a relationship with the government, which contracts with the agency to assist refugees, but does not have a formal relationship with the refugees themselves.

“In rejecting that claim, the judges wrote: “A resettlement agency provides pre-arrival services for a formally assured refugee and engages in an intensive process to match the individual to resources even before the refugee is admitted. These efforts, which the formal assurance embodies, evince a bona fide relationship between a resettlement agency and a refugee.”

“In a statement, a Justice Department spokesman said the agency would appeal the decision. “The Supreme Court has stepped in to correct these lower courts before, and we will now return to the Supreme Court to vindicate the executive branch’s duty to protect the nation.” In its June order, the Supreme Court rejected parts of earlier rulings by both the judge in Hawaii and the same appeals court.

“The United States refugee resettlement program virtually ground to a halt at the end of June as a result of the travel ban. Since then, the government has frozen the applications of individuals already assigned to a resettlement agency, unless they could show ties to a close family member in the United States. Some 24,000 refugees were affected, the court noted in its opinion.

“The court mandated that the government resume resettling refugees in the United States beginning in five days.

“Becca Heller, director of International Refugee Assistance Project, an organization that provides free legal assistance to refugees abroad and has sued the government over the ban, said Thursday, “I am thrilled that two courts have now recognized the importance of the decades-old relationship between refugees and the American families, communities and organizations that help them resettle.”

“The six countries named in the president’s ban are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all predominantly Muslim.

“In the fall, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether the ban was a legal exercise of the president’s national security power, as the Trump administration argues, or an unconstitutional discrimination against Muslims, as opponents contend.”

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