The Trump administration filed a brief in federal court Monday night that defends the guidelines it created last week to implement the president’s embattled travel ban policy — strictures that barred grandparents from affected nations and limited the universe of refugees who could enter the U.S.
The Justice Department, in a case before Hawaii District Court Judge Derrick Watson, argued that its reading of a Supreme Court order was rooted in precedent from federal immigration law.
“The Supreme Court’s decision construing the Executive Order must also be read as having that touchstone in mind, not the broader, free-hand rules now constructed by Plaintiffs,” the administration wrote.
The ban, which blocks the issuance of new visas to six majority-Muslim nations for 90 days and suspends the refugee resettlement program for 120 days, went into effect partially Thursday after an order issued by the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to proceed while the justices prepare to consider the case in the fall.
The Supreme Court’s order, however, came with the caveat that the government refrain from applying the ban to people who maintain a “bona fide relationship” to a person or entity in the U.S.
The high court offered some guidance as to what would constitute such a relationship — a close family member or an employer, for instance — but stopped short of explicit instructions.
As a result, the Trump administration was left to formulate its own guidelines, which permitted parents, spouses and children of someone in the U.S., among others, but excluded grandparents and grandchildren, along with a range of “extended” family members.
In cases of people engaged to be married, the Trump administration appeared to reverse course just before the policy went forward, allowing fiancés to circumvent the ban.
Even with that change, travel ban opponents considered the administration’s definition of a “bona fide” relationship to be too narrow.
The plaintiffs in one case against the ban — the state of Hawaii and a local imam — asked the judge on Thursday to clarify the scope of the Supreme Court’s order.
In the filing Monday, the Trump administration defended its choice to bar certain family members, as well as a contentious decision involving refugees. The administration determined a refugee’s connection to a resettlement agency alone did not warrant an exception to the ban.
“Under the Refugee Program, a refugee’s relationship with a resettlement agency is created by direction of the Government through a cooperative agreement entered into between the Government and the agency,” the brief reads. “In other words, a refugee’s relationship with the agency flows from the Government, not from an independent relationship between the refugee and the resettlement agency.”
The plaintiffs in the case are scheduled to file a brief Thursday.