Ninth Circuit Ruling Exempts Family Member, Resettlement Relationships from Travel Ban
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised last night’s ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upholding an expanded definition of individuals exempt from the Trump Administration’s travel ban. Yesterday’s ruling reaffirms the United States District Court in Hawaii’s decision holding that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other non-nuclear family members from the six ban countries and refugees are not subject to the ban. It also found that the relationship between a refugee who has received their assurance from a resettlement agency is “bona fide” and therefore exempt from the ban. The ruling takes effect on September 12, 2017. The Trump Administration has announced that it will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“Last night’s decision is a recognition of the importance of all family relationships, particularly refugee families that have been ripped apart by war and persecution,” said Human Rights First’s Hardy Vieux. “The Trump Administration must cease its policies that demonize refugees and those who seek safety in the United States.”
While circuit court decisions normally go into effect 52 days after release, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling takes effect in five days. The court took care to note the precarious nature of refugees’ lives during the pendency of this case before the Supreme Court: “Refugees have only a narrow window of time to complete their travel, as certain security and medical checks expire and must then be re-initiated. Even short delays may prolong a refugee’s admittance.”
Under June’s Supreme Court order, refugee applicants who have a “bona fide relationship to a U.S. person or entity” cannot be barred from the U.S. refugee resettlement program, despite the 50,000 cap reached in July. Most refugees referred and approved for U.S. resettlement already have family in the United States and many also have ties to U.S.-based voluntary resettlement agencies, faith-based groups, and other communities committed to co-sponsoring refugees, as well as U.S.-based attorneys or legal assistance organizations.
Despite these relationships, the Trump Administration has misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s ruling to exclude most of the 24,000 refugees in the resettlement pipeline that have already been fully vetted. Yesterday’s ruling provides a crucial lifeline for these individuals.