White House Moves to Carry Out Partial Travel Ban
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday moved once again to fulfill one of the president’s most contentious campaign promises, banning entry into the United States by refugees from around the world and prohibiting most visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries the president deems dangerous.
Freed by the Supreme Court to partially revive Mr. Trump’s travel ban, administration officials said the American border would remain shut to those groups unless individuals can prove they have close family members living in the United States, or are coming to attend a university or accept a job offer.
Officials said those exceptions would be defined narrowly. In a lengthy cable sent to embassies and consulates around the world, officials said that extended family connections would not be sufficient to evade the president’s ban on entry. Parents, including in-laws, are considered “close family,” but grandparents are not. Stepsiblings and half-siblings will be allowed, but not nieces or nephews.
Critics immediately denounced the administration, accusing the White House of violating the Supreme Court’s directive to exempt anyone with a “bona fide” family connection to the United States. Civil rights groups vowed to challenge what they said was a renewed attempt by Mr. Trump to keep Muslims out of the country.
“It remains clear that President Trump’s purpose is to disparage and condemn Muslims,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the A.C.L.U.’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, adding that the government’s new ban on entry “does not comport with the Supreme Court’s order, is arbitrary, and is not tied to any legitimate government purpose.”
The decision by the administration to revive and aggressively enforce the president’s travel ban is certain to keep the intense debate about America’s borders going into the Supreme Court’s fall term, when the justices are scheduled to decide the legal fate of Mr. Trump’s efforts to restrict entry by particular groups.
Officials said Thursday that they were determined to “meet the intent of the presidential directive” within the boundaries set by the Supreme Court.
Lawyers representing people who have been blocked from visiting the United States described the government’s actions as meanspirited and said they made distinctions about family relations that did not make practical sense.
“Allowing a U.S. citizen to bring their Syrian mother-in-law but not their Syrian brother-in-law doesn’t make us any safer, and doesn’t even really make any sense,” said Gadeir Abbas, a staff lawyer on the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Mr. Trump has said that his travel ban does not directly target Muslims, although all six countries on the targeted list — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — are majority Muslim.
The guidelines followed the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to allow parts of the Trump administration’s revised travel ban to move forward while also imposing certain limits until the court hears arguments on the scope of presidential power over border security and immigration.
The administration also announced Thursday that most refugees would be barred under the policy as well, saying the process that they undergo to be vetted and connected with communities in the United States, which takes years, did not constitute a “bona fide relationship.”
Refugee agencies argued in a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson that their clients should pass muster.
“The order stated that a bona fide relationship with an entity should be ‘formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading E.O.-2,’” Hans van de Weerd, chairman of the Refugee Council USA, the coordinating body for agencies that handle resettlement, wrote in the letter, referring to the president’s executive order. He added that refugee agencies only accept applicants who have already proven that “he or she has ties to the United States.”
But in a conference call with reporters, senior Trump administration officials said that while the Supreme Court had in its order offered examples of family members who should be excused from the travel ban, there were no examples of refugees being similarly exempted.
Mr. Trump’s order also capped the number of refugees to be allowed into the United States at 50,000 per year, less than half of what the Obama administration had allowed. Refugees who already have plans to travel to the United States before July 6 will be allowed in; the administration will determine later what to do with those who plan to travel to the United States after that date.