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Half sib? Welcome. Fiance? Not so fast. New travel ban rules decried as illogical

A young woman protests the Muslim travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017. Photo courtesy of Dustin Pearlman

WASHINGTON (RNS) Grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts do not make the cut, but parents, siblings, half siblings and in-laws apparently do.

The Supreme Court this week partially revived the Trump administration’s travel ban affecting six Muslim-majority countries. But it made clear the ban should not apply to those with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Muslim and other civil rights groups charge the administration’s interpretation of “bona fide relationship” is unreasonably narrow, so that a grandmother from one of those countries will not be able to visit the grandchild she raised when the ban goes into effect again at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday (June 29).

“Irrational,” said Nihad Awad, national executive of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, of the administration’s guidelines, which were spelled out in a diplomatic cable obtained by The New York Times.

“By arbitrarily dividing American Muslims from their grandparents and other close relatives overseas, the Trump administration’s new rules violate the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Awad. “These illogical rules must not stand, nor should any other part of the discriminatory and unconstitutional Muslim ban.”

President Trump has argued that the ban — which applies to Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Libya — will increase U.S. security.

At a State Department press briefing Thursday, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the administration had referred to the definition of family in federal law when it came up with the new rules.

“And for whatever reason it doesn’t include grandparents, but we were just going along with what federal law states,” said Heather Nauert.

Trump’s original executive order on travel, which critics refer to as a “Muslim ban,” was issued in January and quickly shut down by a federal judge. A revised ban issued in March was also blocked. Judges called it discriminatory, based, in part, on Trump’s anti-Muslim comments during the presidential campaign.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said it would rule on the executive order in its next term; in the meantime, the order could go into effect — with exceptions. Federal officials could not keep out of the country people who had been accepted to a U.S. school, offered a job by an employer or enjoy a “bona fide relationship” with a person in the United States.

The Trump rules on enforcement of the court ruling will create the same suffering that families endured before a federal judges issued injunctions against the travel bans, said immigrant advocates.

“This reported guidance would slam the door shut on so many who have waited for months or years to be reunited with their families,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center.

“Those engaged to be married, for example, have been cruelly left out. This reported guidance should leave no doubt that the Trump administration will exploit any opportunity to advance its xenophobic agenda.” 

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

11 Comments

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  • So apparently people want to ignore that those countries on the list have a high incidence of terrorists manipulating the system. That this is NOT a muslim ban! Why people still want to believe it is, is beyond comprehension. This narrative is a complete and utter lie. Then of course there is no acknowledgement that it is temporary, or that Obama wanted the same immigration changes.

    The fact that fiances are not recognized is that it is no way to verify if it is actually true. Anyone can say that they are someone’s fiance, there is no documentation to back this up. It is rife with the potential for abuse.

    So go ahead and use the usual labels of xenophobe, Islamophobia, etc., because they no longer have the weight they once did. It has been so overused, inappropriately used, that it has lost all meaning. Then ask yourself one question, does anyone else need to die, be murdered, for some PC narrative when this could have been avoided with proper and thorough vetting.

  • As to the first statement, there has been no showing of facts to support the idea of widespread visa fraud as you suggest. “Those countries” is to use generalization rather than a supportable argument. The state department has actually refuted claims of connections of visa holders from these countries and terrorist incidents and plots foiled here.

    The travel ban was intended and initially implemented as a Muslim ban. It had to be walked back from that. Like all of the current immigration actions of this administration the motivation is nothing more than appealing to prejudice and acting maliciously for its own sake.

    “Then ask yourself one question, does anyone else need to die, be murdered”

    I guess they do if they are refugees with brown skin and from those countries. This travel ban is not doing squat to keep Americans safe. The overwhelming number of terrorist actions and plots here since 9/11 were committed by either US born people or those who came here as children and most of all from nations not on that list. Those countries were chosen for only one reason, having nothing to do with terrorism, the US lacked formal diplomatic ties to any of them.

    As for vetting, there already is a system for vetting in place. Not one person supporting the travel ban even acknowledged such things exist, let alone provide details as to what needs to be improved. “There needs to be better vetting” is generally coming from people who have no idea what they are talking about. Even the executive branch has been at a complete loss as to how the process allegedly needs to be improved.

  • Many of these anti-immigrant folks should have the guts to be honest and just state that they don’t want Muslims coming into America.

  • That is the problem with those who fail to see the situation as it is, blanket statements implying everything that it is not. I am starting to believe that people who do not have the wisdom, nor the understanding to assess situations just default to the narrative because they are so scared to be called bigoted, racist, by those who do not understand what those really mean any way. If this was in anyway about being anti-Muslim, then all countries would be banned, but they are not. In fact they are more countries that are muslim not part of this ban than there are part of it.

  • The pro-illegal immigration folks should have the guts to be honest and just state that they want as many minority voters here as possible in hopes of a future Democrat lock on government.

    Chris Matthews admitted it on air, and the sky didn’t fall. You can too.

  • I’m not pro-immigration nor am I a democrat. I’m actually indifferent, with the exception of refugees. I do favor educated immigrants filling niches in STEM jobs.

  • Conservative Christians are the ones pushing this and hiding behind security issues. I believe that if they could get away with bans on all muslim-majority, they would do it. If you don’t feel this way then I’ll apologize to you. I’ve been pigeonholed as an Islamaphobe.

  • I wasn’t really talking about you specifically — sorry that it DID sound that way. I was talking about the Democrat party in general.

  • The elephant is in the room. This is just a means of exerting political muscle to demonstrate Republican hegemony against Democratic hegemony. The stated purpose of the original ban was to temporarily halt immigration from certain Muslim countries in order to develop better vetting in the current system. When the ban was banned officials said that tweaking the vetting stopped. All this time while appeals were pending, if they were serious about “better vetting”, they could have been doing what they said they were supposed to be doing, rather than sitting around waiting for something in favor of the ban. The whole underlying thing is not about concern for the people, it’s about influence over the people. To reframe an old African saying, “When elephants and donkeys fight, only the grass suffers.”

  • “because they are so scared to be called bigoted, racist”

    Actually I am finding they are wearing it as a badge of honor and simply dodge the inherent bigotry and unreasoned prejudices and panic which inform the views in question.

    There has been no factual support that country of origin is a material factor in who has been likely to be a terrorist. Especially when virtually every terror plot in the US since 9/11 has been from either native born people or those who immigrated here decades ago. There has been no demonstration as to what procedures in current vetting are somehow defective and need (or can be improved).

    This was a Muslim ban as promised in the campaign, done in a half-baked way as typical of the administration.

    “If this was in anyway about being anti-Muslim, then all countries would be banned”

    That is a ridiculous argument. Because what keeps it from happening has nothing to do with intentions and everything to do with the results of implementation. Trump picked 7 countries the US has no major diplomatic ties to. Easy targets. Had he chosen countries which actually sponsor terrorism, we would have a diplomatic/economic/military crapstorm in response.

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