The Trump administration cannot block grandparents, cousins and other relatives of U.S. citizens under the travel ban, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The 6-3 order was a partial blow and partial win for President Donald Trump, allowing more relatives to circumvent the ban but blocking a lower court ruling that would require the government to allow in refugees formally working with a resettlement agency in the United States, according to the Associated Press.
The Supreme Court ruled in June that Trump could temporarily enforce his travel ban against people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen until the court could hear full arguments in October. But it said the ban did not apply to those who have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
The court did not specify what counted as a bona fide relationship. The Trump administration defined it as a parent, spouse, fiance, child, sibling, son- or daughter-in-law or a parent-in-law in the country. Officials said grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins or siblings-in-law could still be excluded.
The order came as a result of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, a federal judge in Hawaii. Watson had said the Trump administration’s interpretation both on the refugee basis and on bona fide relationships was too restrictive, ruling that refugees to whom a resettlement agency had promised to provide basic services could not be excluded by the government. Potentially thousands more refugees could have entered the country in the coming months under that decision.
The Supreme Court’s order rejected Watson’s ruling on refugee services but supported his wider definition of bona fide relationships, according to Bloomberg.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented on the latest order, saying they would have blocked Watson’s entire ruling. The same three justices dissented in part on the court’s June ruling, saying they would have permitted the ban to take full effect temporarily.
Trump’s original executive order, issued March 6, said a travel ban would be in place for 90 days and the refugee ban would take effect for 120 days. Lower courts rejected the ban, saying it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims, but the Supreme Court overturned those decisions and allowed it to take partial effect.