President Donald Trump's administration has taken the dispute over his temporary travel ban to the Supreme Court again, asking justices to let the government bar entry into the US for people who cite relatives such as grandparents and cousins as "bona fide relationships" in the country.
The Trump administration on Friday sent a request to the Supreme Court indicating that a Hawaii judge's ruling limiting the scope of the temporary travel ban on refugees requires the "immediate intervention" of the justices, according to documents obtained by Fox News. It said the ban could take effect, but people with a "bona fide relationship" to a U.S. person or entity could not be barred.
The administration's apparent change of heart comes just days after a federal judge in Hawaii temporarily halted the Department of Homeland Security from barring grandparents and other relatives from the U.S.
The State Department has issued new instructions about which citizens from the six Muslim-majority countries covered by the Trump administration's travel ban are eligible for visas.
The latest change to Trump's Muslim ban - which is amid a complicated court battle winding its way up to the Supreme Court - comes in a memo sent to US diplomats overseas dated last Friday.
According to Judge Watson, the State Department did not correctly understand the order of the highest federal court.
A Hawaii District Court judge said that such relatives of individuals living in the USA should be considered as close relatives. But grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law are excluded.
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"T$3 he Government's definition represents the antithesis of common sense", Federal District Court Judge Derrick Watson in his ruling, as The Two-Way reported.
Consulates and embassies do not need to reopen any visa applications refused under the prior, narrower definition of close family members, the cable said.
The new battle is over the exact meaning of the term "bona fide relationship".
The instructions issued to US embassies and consulates widen the definition of a close familial relationship to include categories such as grandparents and cousins, in accordance with a federal court ruling last week, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to The Two-Way.
But the Trump administration got to decide what that relationship meant exactly.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a strongly worded statement announcing the appeal on Friday, accused the Hawaii court of having "undermined national security, delayed necessary action, created confusion and violated a proper respect for separation of powers". That ruling substituted Watson's own interpretation of the Supreme Court's June 26 ruling that allowed the travel ban to go into effect for the Trump administration's interpretation of it.
Tillerson's cable is unclear on another part of Trump's executive order that denies entry to refugees and other immigrants without a "close familial relationship".