A federal appeals court ruled Thursday evening that the Trump administration can't ban grandparents and other family members of citizens and legal residents from coming to the U.S. from six mainly Muslim countries.
The Justice Department downplayed the ruling, looking ahead to a higher-ranking court considering the case: "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 June the U.S. Supreme Court said that close family members must be admitted, if they meet security and other criteria. The Trump administration interpreted that language to exclude grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and other family members.
A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously Thursday that the administration had failed to show how grandparents and other relatives are not close family relatives under the criteria set out by the Supreme Court. In that June ruling the Supreme Court had used the case of a mother-in-law's visit to the U.S. to illustrate a legitimate close familial relationship. Citing that example, the appeals court said, "The government does not meaningully argue" how grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and others related to U.S. citizens and legal residents can be categorized as having "no connection" or bona fide relationship with persons in the U.S.
The appeals court also ruled that refugees who have agreements with U.S. settlement agencies qualify as having a bona fide relationship. The Supreme Court in June had said that individuals who had a relationship with a U.S. entity should qualify for admission, and gave as an example, someone offered a job in the U.S.
The Supreme Court's June order halted parts of the Trump travel ban, while the justices more fully consider the case, which is scheduled for argument this fall. By then, however, the 90-day ban on travel by persons from certain predominently Muslim countries will have expired. The court could consider the case moot and make a ruling.