The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Donald Trump on his embattled travel ban Wednesday, rejecting his bid to bar entry by some people with family members already in the country.
The three-sentence order by the justices — who last month let the president start restricting entry by people from six mostly Muslim countries — means the government must accept people with grandparents, cousins and other relatives in the U.S.
The order gave Trump a partial win on a separate issue, temporarily blocking a lower court ruling that would have opened the way for potentially thousands of refugees to enter the country in the coming months. That portion of the Supreme Court order applies while the administration appeals on that issue to a federal appellate court in San Francisco.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented from part of Wednesday’s order, saying they would have let Trump also refuse entry to grandparents and other relatives while the case is on appeal.
The Supreme Court plans to hear arguments Oct. 10 on the travel ban. The latest scuffle centered on the rules that will apply in the interim.
The justices on June 26 let the government enforce a limited travel ban, saying the U.S. had to admit at least some close relatives though the court didn’t list all the relationships that qualified. The Trump administration then agreed to let people enter if they had a parent, spouse, fiance, child, sibling, son- or daughter-in-law, or a parent-in-law in the country.
But the government contended it could still exclude people whose closest relatives in the U.S. are grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, or siblings-in-law.
A federal trial judge in Hawaii said the administration’s standard was too restrictive and couldn’t be squared with the Supreme Court decision. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson also said the government couldn’t exclude refugees once a resettlement agency had promised that it would provide basic services for them.
Trump asked the Supreme Court to clarify its June 26 decision, contending that Watson disobeyed it. The high court denied that request in Wednesday’s order, though it partially granted one of the administration’s backup suggestions by blocking the portion of Watson’s ruling that addressed refugees.
Trump’s March 6 executive order said the 90-day travel ban and 120-day refugee ban would give officials time to assess U.S. vetting procedures and would address an “unacceptably high” risk that terrorists could slip into the country. Lower courts had blocked the ban, saying Trump overstepped his authority and unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.
The case is Trump v. Hawaii, 16-1540.
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