President’s travel ban goes into effect
President Donald Trump finally saw his travel ban take effect as U.S. embassies across the globe implemented new restrictions Thursday to block travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries as well as refugees from everywhere.
White House officials tried to assure U.S. residents that there would be none of the disruptions at international airports that occurred the first time the administration tried to enact the ban in January.
But immigrant advocates and civil rights groups said guidelines issued by the government on who would be banned were vague and opened the possibility of confusion and chaos as thousands of customs officials and embassy officials tried to implement the order.
“It’s incredibly confusing,” said Mark Hetfield, chief executive of HIAS, formerly known as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. “We’re just waiting to see what happens.”
The ban, which took effect at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday, puts a 90-day pause on travel to the U.S. by nationals of Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen and blocks all refugee resettlement for 120 days.
It had been blocked by various courts until this week, when the Supreme Court ruled that it could be put in place with an exception for foreigners with a “bona fide relationship” to American individuals or entities. The court offered limited examples, including students, “a worker who accepted an offer of employment from an American company or a lecturer invited to address an American audience.”
In guidelines issued Thursday, the Trump administration interpreted the ruling to allow entry of people with “close family” in the U.S., such as a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling or inlaw parent. It said people with employment and university admission would also qualify.
But it blocked grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law.
That set the stage for a legal showdown between the government and the immigrant rights groups over who qualifies as close family.
Late Thursday, the state of Hawaii filed a motion in Honolulu’s federal district court asking a judge who previously ruled against the travel ban to clarify whether the government’s list of unqualified relatives violates the Supreme Court’s order.
Government officials said they based their interpretation on the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.
But Kevin Lapp, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the closest that law comes to describing “close family” is a section that describes “immediate relatives” as children younger than 21, spouses and parents.
Those relatives get preference for visas, and the government went beyond that definition with the travel ban rules, he said.