A new fight as travel ban takes ef­fect

Im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates de­cry Trump’s def­i­ni­tion of ‘close fam­ily’ in de­cid­ing who can en­ter.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Jaweed Kaleem

Pres­i­dent 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 5 p.m. Pa­cific time, 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 in-

vited 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 in-law par­ent. It said peo­ple with em­ploy­ment and univer­sity ad­mis­sion would also qual­ify.

But it blocked grand­par­ents, grand­chil­dren, aunts, un­cles, nieces, neph­ews, cousins and broth­er­sand sis­ters-in-law.

That set the stage for a le­gal show­down 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.

Peter Spiro, a law pro­fes­sor at Tem­ple Univer­sity, said that “the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s def­i­ni­tion of fam­ily is all over the place.”

He pointed out that the im­mi­gra­tion act doesn’t al­low pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for moth­ers- and fathers-in­law — who were in­cluded in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s def­i­ni­tion of close rel­a­tives — but does give pref­er­ence to fi­ances and fi­ancees — who were ini­tially left off the list and then added in the final hour be­fore the ban took ef­fect.

Caught in the con­fu­sion was U.S. cit­i­zen Af­saneh Shi­razi, a 36-year-old soft­ware en­gi­neer who lives in San Fran­cisco, whose fi­ance has been in Iran since Novem­ber wait­ing for a visa.

Be­fore the last-minute change, the cou­ple had been think­ing about mov­ing to an­other coun­try to be to­gether.

“It was a hard day and I am a bit re­lieved now,” she said af­ter it ap­peared her fi­ance would not be barred. “I am still wor­ried about ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­cess­ing tak­ing a long time.”

The pol­icy on refugees is an­other source of con­fu­sion.

Refugees sched­uled to ar­rive in the U.S. by July 6 will be al­lowed en­try. But it was un­clear how the or­der would be ap­plied to thou­sands of refugees who had been ap­proved for travel but could not get flight reser­va­tions be­fore that dead­line.

Refugee ad­vo­cates ar­gue that refugee agen­cies should be counted as bona fide U.S. con­nec­tions, al­low­ing re­set­tle­ment to pro­ceed. But the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has not said whether that is the case.

“Our un­der­stand­ing is that they are es­sen­tially shut­ting down refugee re­set­tle­ment,” said Justin Cox, an at­tor­ney with the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Law Cen­ter. “... If we can’t work this out, we will be back in court.”

Cox is among a team rep­re­sent­ing im­mi­grants and refugee groups in a case over the travel ban that the Supreme Court is ex­pected to hear in the fall.

The court, which is also con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar case from Hawaii, in­di­cated that its move to par­tially re­vive the ban was a tem­po­rary com­pro­mise be­fore it heard full ar­gu­ments. Plain­tiffs have ar­gued that the ban un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally dis­crim­i­nates against Mus­lims.

But the mat­ter could be moot by the fall, be­cause Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der says the gov­ern­ment needs 90 days to eval­u­ate its vet­ting pro­ce­dures be­fore of­fer­ing per­ma­nent pro­pos­als to hin­der en­try from ter­ror­ists.

Amid ques­tions about who would be let into the U.S., im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates dis­patched vol­un­teers overnight Thursday to in­ter­na­tional air­ports in­clud­ing Los An­ge­les, At­lanta, New York and Wash­ing­ton.

“You have kids out of school who ex­pected to see their grand­par­ents this sum­mer,” said Camille Mack­ler, di­rec­tor of le­gal ini­tia­tives at the New York Im­mi­gra­tion Coali­tion, who was sta­tioned at John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port. “You have U.S. cit­i­zens who were plan­ning to get married and can’t bring over their fi­ances.”

Mack­ler said she didn’t ex­pect a re­peat of the “dra­matic scene” that oc­curred in Jan­uary when the orig­i­nal ban led to sev­eral days of de­por­ta­tions, de­ten­tions and thou­sands of visa can­cel­la­tions be­fore it was struck down in court.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said that peo­ple who had visa ap­point­ments at em­bassies and con­sulates should still ap­ply for travel and would be eval­u­ated on a case-by-case ba­sis.

Im­mi­grant groups have con­tin­ued to reg­is­ter their op­po­si­tion to the ban. The Na­tional Ira­nian Amer­i­can Coun­cil said its im­ple­men­ta­tion rep­re­sented a “new low” by “tar­get­ing grand­par­ents of Amer­i­can chil­dren.”

“The Ira­nian com­mu­nity, many of us are first or sec­ond gen­er­a­tion,” said Ja­mal Abdi, the group’s pol­icy di­rec­tor. “A lot of our fam­i­lies are still in Iran. A lot of our aunts and un­cles are still in Iran…. Many of us can’t go to Iran — now, we see both gov­ern­ments pun­ish­ing the peo­ple who are stuck in the mid­dle and that means fam­i­lies are now be­ing torn apart.”

Ni­had Awad, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions, said in a state­ment that the new travel rules were wrong in “ar­bi­trar­ily di­vid­ing Amer­i­can Mus­lims from their grand­par­ents and other close rel­a­tives over­seas.”

“These il­log­i­cal rules must not stand, nor should any other part of the dis­crim­i­na­tory and un­con­sti­tu­tional Mus­lim ban,” he said.

Ed­uardo Munoz Al­varez AFP/Getty Im­ages

PEO­PLE in New York protest the new travel rules. “The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s def­i­ni­tion of fam­ily is all over the place,” one law pro­fes­sor said.

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