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Travel ruling paves way for more refugees, but appeal awaits

  • FILE - In this July 6, 2017, file photo, Ali Said, of Somalia, center, waits at a center for refugees with his two sons in San Diego. Said, whose leg was blown off by a grenade, says he feels unbelievably lucky to be among one of the last refugees allowed into the United States before stricter rules were to kick in as part of the Trump administration's proposed travel ban. A federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban Thursday, July 13, 2017, by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) Gregory Bull

  • In this Feb. 10, 2017, file photo, Abdisellam Hassen Ahmed, a Somali refugee who had been stuck in limbo after President Donald Trump temporarily banned refugee entries, walks with his wife Nimo Hashi, and his 2-year-old daughter, Taslim, after arriving at Salt Lake City International Airport, in Salt Lake City. AP photo

  • U.S President Donald Trump applauds as he attends the Bastille Day parade in Paris, Friday, July 14, 2017. Paris has tightened security before its annual Bastille Day parade, which this year is being opened by American troops with President Donald Trump as the guest of honor to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) Markus Schreiber

  • FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2017, file photo, four-year-old Somali refugee Mushkaad Abdi holds her doll as her mother, Samira Dahir, talks during a Minneapolis news conference one day after she was reunited with her family. Her trip from Uganda to Minnesota was held up by President Donald Trump's Jan. 27 order barring refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations. A federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban Thursday, July 13, 2017, by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File) Jim Mone

  • FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2011 file photo, refugees walk amongst huts at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Earlier in 2017, some Somali refugees whose resettlement in the United States was stopped by President Donald Trump's executive order were sent back to the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya. A federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban in a ruling Thursday, July 13, 2017, by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen, can use to get into the country. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam, File) Schalk van Zuydam

  • FILE - In this March 16, 2017, file photo, Somali refugees Layla Muali, left, and Hawo Jamile, right, wipe away tears during an interview at the Community Refugee & Immigration Services offices in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus has the country's largest percentage of Somali refugees. A federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban in a ruling Thursday, July 13, 2017, by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) John Minchillo

  • FILE - In this June 30, 2017, file photo, Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks at a news conference about President Donald Donald Trump's travel ban in Honolulu. The Hawaii attorney general fighting President Donald Trump's travel ban is lauding a ruling by a federal judge that expands the list of relationships to U.S. citizens that are exempt from the ban. Chin said Thursday, July 13 that the court makes it clear that the administration "may not ignore the scope of the partial travel ban as it sees fit." (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) Caleb Jones

  • FILE - In this July 6, 2017, file photo, Ali Said, of Somalia, center, leaves a center for refugees with his two sons, as refugee caseworker Mohamed Yassin, right, holds open the door in San Diego. A federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban Thursday, July 13, 2017, by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) Gregory Bull

  • FILE - In this July 6, 2017, file photo, Ali Said, of Somalia, right, leaves a center for refugees with his two sons, as refugee caseworker Mohamed Yassin, left, waits by a van in San Diego. A federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban Thursday, July 13, 2017, by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) Gregory Bull

  • FILE - This Dec. 2015 file photo shows U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu. Watson on Thursday, July 13, 2017, expanded the list of family relationships needed by people seeking new visas from six mostly Muslim countries to avoid President Donald Trump's travel ban. Watson ordered the government not to enforce the ban on grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States. (George Lee /The Star-Advertiser via AP, File) George F. Lee



Associated Press
Friday, July 14, 2017

WASHINGTON — A court decision on President Donald Trump’s travel ban has reopened a window for tens of thousands of refugees to enter the United States, and the government is looking to quickly close it.

The administration late Friday appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal judge in Hawaii ordered it to allow in refugees formally working with a resettlement agency in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on also vastly expanded the list of U.S. family relationships that refugees and visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country, including grandparents and grandchildren.

The ruling Thursday was the latest twist in a long, tangled legal fight that will culminate with arguments before the nation’s high court in October.

It could help more than 24,000 refugees who had already been vetted and approved by the United States but would have been barred by the 120-day freeze on refugee admissions, said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, a resettlement agency.

“Many of them had already sold all of their belongings to start their new lives in safety,” she said. “This decision gives back hope to so many who would otherwise be stranded indefinitely.”

Citing a need to review its vetting process to ensure national security, the administration capped refugee admissions at 50,000 for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, a ceiling it hit this week.

The federal budget can accommodate up to 75,000 refugees, but admissions have slowed under Trump, and the government could hold them to a trickle, resettlement agencies say.

“Absolutely this is good news for refugees, but there’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Melanie Nezer, spokeswoman for HIAS, a resettlement agency. “It’s really going to depend on how the administration reacts to this.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the administration will ask the Supreme Court to weigh in, bypassing the San Francisco-based 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled against it in the case.

The Supreme Court allowed a scaled-back version of the travel ban to take effect last month.

“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 co-equal executive branch related to our national security,” Sessions said. “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.”

The administration took a first step by filing a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit, allowing it to use a rule to petition the high court directly. There’s no timetable for the Supreme Court to act, but the administration will be seeking quick action that clarifies the court’s June opinion.

The justices now are scattered during their summer recess, so any short-term action would come in written filings.

The administration has lost most legal challenges on the travel ban, which applies to citizens of Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen.

The Supreme Court’s ruling exempted a large swath of refugees and travelers with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or an entity in the U.S. The justices did not define those relationships but said they could include a close relative, a job offer or admission to a college or university.

The Trump administration defined the relationships as people who had a parent, spouse, fiance, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the U.S.

Watson enlarged that group to include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin, who sought the broader definition, said Thursday’s ruling “makes clear that the U.S. government may not ignore the scope of the partial travel ban as it sees fit.”

“Family members have been separated and real people have suffered enough,” Chin said.