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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Grandparents and other relatives exempted from Trump's travel ban

Judge in Hawaii expands definition of "close family relationship" in the US supreme court ruling that allowed partial implementation of president's ban

Grandparents, grandchildren and other relatives of people in the United States are exempt from the Trump administration's travel ban targeting six majority-Muslim countries, a federal judge in Hawaii has ruled.

The decision on Thursday by Judge Derrick Watson was a victory for opponents of the ban, who say it discriminates against Muslims. The Trump administration says is necessary to keep out terrorists.

The US supreme court had allowed part of the ban to go into effect on June 30, after five months of challenges in lower courts. The legal battle will culminate with arguments in front of the supreme court when it reconvenes in October.

Specifically, the court allowed a 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and a 120-day ban on refugees, with exceptions for people with "close family relationships" in the United States.

The Trump administration defined "close family relationship" to include parents, spouses, children, fiancees and siblings.

But Judge 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."

He 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".

The judge also ruled that the government may not exclude refugees who have formal assurance and promise of placement services from a resettlement agency in the US.

The Hawaii attorney general, Douglas S Chin, who represented the state as the plaintiff in the case, said the court made clear "that the US government may not ignore the scope of the partial travel as it sees fit".

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

President Donald Trump had proposed a blanket ban on entry for Muslims during his campaign, but limited it to a handful of countries when he issued his initial travel ban days after taking office in January, promoting it as a necessary tool for national security and fighting terrorism.

It set off massive protests at airports around the country and immediately sparked a number of legal challenges.

Courts blocked the enforcement of ban as well as a revised version issued by the Trump administration in March, until the Supreme Court partially reinstated it at the end of June.

It's unclear how significantly the new rules have affected or will affect travel. In most of the countries singled out, few people have the means for leisure travel. Those that do already face intensive screenings before being issued visas.