WASHINGTON – The United States Justice Department filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on Friday against a Hawaii federal judge’s ruling that limited the scope of the US president’s travel ban on refugees and visitors from six Muslim-majority countries.
Hawaii-based US District Judge Derrick Watson on Thursday criticized the directives issued by Donald Trump’s administration and ruled that the travel ban could not be used against “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the US.”
“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,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
Trump’s travel ban implemented on June 29 barred citizens from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Libya from entering the US for 90 days, and all refugees for 120 days, unless they could prove they had close family members living in the US.
Administration officials said they considered only the parents, spouses, fiances, children and siblings to fall into the category of close family.
Civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized this distinction as arbitrary, and Judge Watson ruled against the government’s implementation of the ban, saying the administration’s definition of close family was “the antithesis of common sense.”
“Common sense... 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,” the judge said in his ruling.
In its appeal on Friday, the Justice Department claimed that the judge’s ruling “empties the (Supreme) Court’s decision of meaning, as it encompasses not just ‘close’ family members but virtually all family members.”
Sessions criticized the Hawaii District Court and said it had “issued decisions that are entrusted to the executive branch, undermined national security, delayed necessary action, created confusion, and violated a proper respect for separation of powers.”
The travel ban came into force at the end of June after the Supreme Court ruled it could be implemented, but that people with a “bona fide relationship” to a person or entity in the US could not be barred.
The court will hear arguments on whether the ban violates the US constitution in a hearing expected to take place in October.