Trump administration appeals Hawaii court ruling on travel ban

WASHINGTON — A court decision on President Trump’s travel ban has reopened a window for tens of thousands of refugees to enter the United States, and the government is looking to quickly close it. 

The administration late Friday appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal judge in Hawaii ordered it to allow in refugees formally working with a resettlement agency in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on also vastly expanded the list of U.S. family relationships that refugees and visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country, including grandparents and grandchildren.

In its appeal, the U.S. Justice Department said Watson’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on what family relationships qualify refugees and visitors from the six Muslim-majority countries to enter the U.S. “empties the court’s decision of meaning, as it encompasses not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members. Treating all of these relationships as ‘close familial relationship(s)’ reads the term ‘close’ out of the Court’s decision.”

Only the Supreme Court can decide these issues surrounding the travel ban, the Justice Department said. “Only this Court can definitively settle whether the government’s reasonable implementation is consistent with this Court’s stay,” it said.

Watson’s ruling Thursday was the latest twist in a long, tangled legal fight that will culminate with arguments before the nation’s high court in October.

It could help more than 24,000 refugees who had already been vetted and approved by the United States but would have been barred by the 120-day freeze on refugee admissions, said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, a resettlement agency.

“Many of them had already sold all of their belongings to start their new lives in safety,” she said. “This decision gives back hope to so many who would otherwise be stranded indefinitely.”

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