The U.S. Supreme Court Has Rejected Trump’s Cruel ‘Grandma Ban,’ But Refugees Remain In Limbo

The U.S. Supreme Court offered a mixed bag of good and bad news Wednesday on President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.

The good news: The high court left in place a federal court’s decision last week that the U.S. must grant entry to grandparents and other extended family members from the six Muslim-majority countries targeted in Trump’s ban. That lifts the so-called “grandma ban” and will prevent the cruel separation of many Muslim families.

The bad news: The high court suspended the lower court’s determination that an estimated 24,000 refugees who are already working with U.S.-based resettlement agencies should be allowed to enter the country.

While this is a blow for the thousands of people trying to escape war-torn regions around the world, it is not the final word on the matter. Rather, the Supreme Court is letting the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – a court that has already twice blocked implementation of Trump’s Muslim ban – hear arguments on whether these refugees must be allowed in. The Supreme Court action yesterday means these refugees – unlike grandparents and other family members – continue to be banned pending the 9th Circuit’s ruling.

Americans United has been fighting the Muslim ban since the beginning, from filing friend-of-the-court briefs in five cases challenging the ban to filing our own lawsuit, Universal Muslim Association of America v. Trump, which outlines how the ban harms the American Muslim community.

We’ve shown the courts that Trump’s executive order is the Muslim ban that he repeatedly promised from the campaign trail. It is unconstitutional and un-American because it singles out Muslims for discrimination based solely on their religion.

“The president has made clear that this policy is driven by hostility toward Muslims, and we expect that when the high court hears this case, the justices will come to the same conclusion that multiple federal courts have reached: This ban is unconstitutional,” AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, said yesterday.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ended the Trump administration's "grandma ban," but parts of the Muslim ban are in effect.

To recap what’s happened with the Muslim ban in the last few weeks: On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in two Muslim ban cases, Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. State of Hawaiʻi. AU has filed legal briefs in both cases.

The high court won’t hear those arguments until Oct. 10. In the interim, the justices said that the ban – which had been halted by federal courts across the country – could take effect, but only against those who lack “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”  One type of “bona fide relationship” that would qualify, said the court, was “a close familial relationship.”

A few days later, as the ban was about to go into effect, the Trump administration issued guidance  regarding which familial relationships it considered “close”: parents, children and parents-in-law could enter the country, but grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, brothers- and sisters-in-law, and cousins would be excluded.

To assert that grandparents and these other relatives were not closely related was ludicrous and cruel, and the plaintiffs in the Hawaiʻi case asked the courts to intervene.

Last week, Judge Derrick K. Watson in Honolulu – the district judge who originally blocked the second Muslim ban from taking effect in March – ruled that extended family members and refugees already working with resettlement agencies had “bona fide” relationships and thus couldn’t be blocked by Trump’s Muslim ban.

“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson wrote. “Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”

And of the refugees, Watson wrote: “An assurance from a United States refugee resettlement agency, in fact, meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones: it is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations, including compensation, it is issued specific to an individual refugee only when that refugee has been approved for entry by the Department of Homeland Security, and it is issued in the ordinary course, and historically has been for decades.” He added, “Bona fide does not get any more bona fide than that.”

Then yesterday, in what The New York Times described as a “terse” three-sentence order, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s attempt to undo Watson’s ruling, but put a hold on his decision on refugees. That issue will be heard next by the 9th Circuit.

Americans United will continue to fight against the efforts of the Trump administration to pursue hateful policies against Muslims and others. In fact, today we joined our allies Muslim Advocates, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Brennan Center for Justice and Penn State Law Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia in sending the administration a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the “extreme vetting” policy included in the Muslim ban executive order. We want the public to know whether Trump is using this “extreme vetting” as a way of implementing the Muslim ban and making it permanent, away from the scrutiny of the press, courts and American public.

Read more about our efforts to fight the Muslim ban here.