The Trump administration’s revised travel ban faced a new court challenge as soon as it took effect Thursday after the president’s signature immigration policy already weathered months of protests, legal wrangling and delays.
A new set of restrictions on refugees and immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries took effect at 8 pm EDT. The administration said the rules should help prevent the chaotic airport scenes witnessed when President Donald Trump’s initial order was abruptly imposed in January.
But a half-hour before the ban took effect, Hawaii asked a judge to clarify whether the government violated instructions from the US Supreme Court in defining who’s covered by the ban and who’s excluded. The US Justice Department declined to comment.
If implemented as intended, the travel restrictions would allow Trump to declare partial victory on his campaign promise to stem the flow of refugees and travellers from nations he deems a security risk. Lower court decisions to uphold two of his proposed travel bans were early, public defeats for the administration in its initial weeks.
To minimise disruptions this time, the State Department, Homeland Security Department and Justice Department coordinated in advance to establish clearer guidelines for thousands of consular officers, airlines and travelers. And unlike in January, when hundreds of travellers arriving in the US were turned back or detained at airports, those already holding a valid visa will be let in.
“The American public could have legitimate concerns about their safety when we open our doors,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a briefing Thursday. “We want to open our doors to people who are willing to go through proper screening measures and who want to be here and want to be productive members of our society.”
The latest effort followed a US Supreme Court ruling this week that travellers from the six nations -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- with “bona fide” connections in the US be exempted from the travel ban. That definition was interpreted to mean that travellers with specific, close family members in the US, including spouses, children and siblings, could be let in. But people whose closest connections are grandparents, aunts and uncles could be barred.
Students or travellers with business or professional ties from the affected countries also are exempt if they can show a relationship that’s formal and documented, and not based on an intent to evade the ban.
Hawaii is now taking issue with how the government defines family ties.
“Our concern is that when you read their definition of what constitutes a close family relationship, they’re cutting out a lot of people,” said the state’s attorney general, Doug Chin. He filed his emergency request for clarification with the same judge, Derrick Watson, who previously blocked Trump’s March executive order from taking effect.
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