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State Department Issues Clarifications As Travel Ban Set To Take Effect, Lawyers Stand Ready

Now that the Supreme Court has approved a “narrower” version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the measure is set to go into effect for the first time since late January, when it sparked chaos and protests at airports across the country.

The revised ban, which the court ruled must allow the admittance of individuals who have a "credible claim of bona fide relationship" in the country, will take affect at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, according to the Hill. Under the court’s new standard, an individual must have a close US family relationship or formal ties to a US entity like an employer or academic institution to be admitted to the United States under guidance distributed by the US State Department on Wednesday, according to the Hill.

Otherwise, they are temporarily banned for 90 days or 120 days if they're a refugee coming from any country in the world. In preparation for the ban to take effect, the State Department issued a cable adding a few clarifications to the Supreme Court ruling, advising that close family "does not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancés, and any other 'extended' family members,” according to Reuters.

The cable also specified that any relationship with a US entity "must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading the E.O.," a reference to U President Donald Trump's March 6 executive order barring most US travel by citizens of the six nations for 90 days.

It also provided a narrower definition of what constitutes a “bona fide” relations, explaining that visiting lecturers and student-visa applications would be welcome, but individuals who had simply made a hotel room reservation would not. However, many important issues - like whether the State Department's own dealings with refugees constitutes a "bona fide" relationship - remain unresolved. And there's also the question of whether courts could issue their own guidance that would supersede the State Department's.

Here’s Reuters:

The cable provides advice to US consular officers on how to interpret Monday's Supreme Court ruling that allowed parts of the executive order, which had been blocked by the courts, to be implemented while the highest U.S. court considers the matter.

 

The countries covered by order include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, after the administration removed Iraq from the list in its updated ban.

 

The cable's language closely mirrored the Supreme Court's order on the travel ban, though it appeared to interpret it in a narrow manner, notably in its definition of close family.

 

It was unclear on Wednesday evening whether the State Department's interpretation of the court's order would spark further legal action by opponents of the ban.

 

The guidance gave several examples of what might constitute a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity, and said broad categories would be exempt from the travel ban, such as those eligible for student visas, "as their bona fide relationship to a person or entity is inherent in the visa classification."

 

Similarly, those eligible for family or employment based immigrant visa applications are exempt from the travel ban, the cable said.

 

The State Department guidance was unclear on what U.S. refugee agencies regard as a key question: whether their own dealings with refugees applying to come to the United States constituted a bona fide relationship.

 

The cable said that consulates should continue to interview applicants for so-called diversity visas, which are granted to individuals from countries that typically do not send many immigrants to the United States. In 2015, around 10,500 citizens from the six banned countries were selected for the diversity visa lottery, according to State Department figures.

 

The cable said "a worker who accepted an offer of employment from a company in the United States or a lecturer invited to address an audience in the United States would be exempt" from the travel ban, but someone who simply made a hotel reservation would not count as someone with a bona fide relationship.

The travel ban will likely bar such visas for citizens of the six countries, the cable acknowledged, stating that "we anticipate that very few DV applicants are likely to be exempt from the E.O.’s suspension of entry or to qualify for a waiver."

The Supreme Court has said it would issue a final judgment on the ban in October. Until then, there’s little recourse left: The ban is going to effect – end of story.

* * *

Meanwhile, CBS reports that a dozen lawyers have volunteered to set up shop near JFK's Terminal 4 to monitor the implementation of the ban. A representative from the New York Immigration Coalition says more than 1,000 lawyers are ready to back them up if the ban's implementation leads to the same type of chaos seen in January.

“We have an army of over 1,000 lawyers who have their back and are ready to go back out to JFK if that becomes necessary,” said Camille Mackler, Director of Legal Initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition.

Though Mackler noted that such an outcome is unlikely because most of the travelers arriving in the states already have visas approved.

“In terms individuals arriving at the United States… they should already have visas approved, and are not subject to the ban, the injunction, the stay on the injunction  or anything like that,” Mackler said.

“For now it seems, just from the way that the second order was written and also from the Supreme Court’s pretty limited stay on the injunction, that most of those who will be impacted are actually abroad,” Mackler said.

No word yet as to whether we'll see the same wave of protests at airports like those that occurred in January when the original travel ban went into effect.