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US judge narrows travel ban, handing Trump legal setback

Grandparents and other relatives of people living in the US cannot be barred from entering the country under President Trump's travel ban, a judge has ruled

14 July 2017, 8:08am
The ruling means grandparents and other relatives of people in the US can now visit
The ruling means grandparents and other relatives of people in the US can now visit
A federal judge in Hawaii ruled that grandparents, grandchildren and other relatives of people in the United States should be exempt from the Trump administration's travel ban targeting travellers from six majority-Muslim countries.

The ruling by US District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu on Thursday also opens the door for more refugees and deals Trump a fresh courtroom defeat in a long back-and-forth over an executive order that has gone all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

The state of Hawaii had asked Watson to narrowly interpret a Supreme Court ruling that revived parts of Trump's 6 March executive order banning travellers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, as well as refugees for 120 days.

The US Supreme Court had allowed part of the ban to go into effect on June 30, putting an end, at least temporarily, to five months of skirmishes in lower courts, but had said that anyone from the six countries with a "bona fide relationship" to a US person or entity could not be barred.

The Trump administration then interpreted that opinion to allow spouses, parents, children, fiancés and siblings into the country, but barred grandparents and other family members, in a measure Trump called necessary to prevent attacks.

But Watson found that "the Government's narrowly defined list finds no support in the careful language of the Supreme Court or even in the immigration statutes on which the Government relies."

"Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents," he wrote.

"Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government's definition excludes them. That simply cannot be."

Watson ordered Homeland Security and the State Department not to enforce the ban on "grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States."

Trump's order is a pretext for illegal discrimination, Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said in a statement.

"Family members have been separated and real people have suffered enough," Chin said.

Chin had asked Watson for an injunction allowing grandparents and other family members to travel to the United States. Hawaii and refugee groups also had argued that resettlement agencies have a "bona fide" relationship with the refugees they help, sometimes over the course of years.