Federal Judge Confirms Grandparents Are Close Family in Blow to Trump’s Travel Ban

The courts keep chipping away at the travel ban. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Last month the Supreme Court gave the Trump administration an opportunity to redefine close familial relationships, and unsurprisingly, things got a bit weird. For the purposes of Trump’s very pared-down travel ban, which is in effect until the court has a chance to rule on it, people hoping to enter the country from six Muslim-majority nations had to prove that they have a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or sibling already in the U.S. No grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law, or fiancés allowed.

Oh, wait. Fiancés actually are allowed, due to some inexplicable last-minute change. But grandmas, no matter how loving or non-threatening, are still out.

Except now all those relatives are allowed in because, once again, a federal judge has ruled that parts of Trump’s travel ban are unlawful.

The problem started when the Supreme Court said the ban did not apply to visa applicants who can prove a “bona fide” relationship with a U.S. citizen or entity. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson — the Hawaii judge who blocked the revised travel ban from going into effect in March — ruled that the administration’s definition of who counts as a close family member must be expanded.

“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson said in his ruling. “Indeed grandparents are the epitome of close family members.”

He also ruled that contrary to the administration’s guidelines, refugees should be allowed into the country if they’re working with a resettlement agency in the U.S. “Bona fide does not get any more bona fide than that,” Watson wrote.

Hawaii had filed an emergency motion asking the court to clarify the scope of the travel and refugee ban on June 29, the day the new temporary ban went into effect. Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said the ruling makes it clear “that the U.S. government may not ignore the scope of the partial travel ban as it sees fit.”

“Family members have been separated and real people have suffered enough,” Chin added.

But not so fast, grandmothers. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that the administration will appeal this ruling directly to the Supreme Court, whose unspecific “bona fide” standard helped create this new layer of confusion. The Supreme Court will hear the merits of the travel ban in full in October.


Judge Says Grandmas Are Close Family in Blow to Travel Ban