On Thursday night – amid last-minute court challenges and slap-dash policy changes – the Trump administration's contentious Muslim travel ban went back into effect.
The ban, conceived during the campaign and hurriedly implemented in Trump's first week in office, has spent the last five months mired in legal challenges. The administration got a brief reprieve on Monday, when the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments related to the executive order in October.
Until then, the justices said, the brunt of the revised travel ban, which bars the issuance of visas from six majority-Muslim countries for 90 days and halts refugee resettlement for 120 days, could be implemented. The decision came with one big caveat, though: The federal government couldn't bar the entry of anyone with a "bona fide relationship" to an American or an American organization.
At the time, Justice Clarence Thomas predicted the decision would "invite a flood of litigation until this case is finally resolved on the merits." Specifically, Thomas believed there would be a titanic struggle "to determine what exactly constitutes a 'bona fide relationship,' who precisely has a 'credible claim' to that relationship."
He was right. Minutes before the ban was officially restored, the state of Hawaii filed an emergency motion challenging the administration's definition of a "bona fide relationship," claiming the administration’s narrow definition violated the Supreme Court's instructions.
Even as the revamped version of executive order was taking effect, the State Department was revising its own concept of who should and should not be allowed into the country. Fiancés, a category that was initially not included in the administration's definition of "close family," would be exempt from the ban after all, a State Department official told Reuters late Thursday night.
Also excluded from the ban under the new guidelines, as interpreted by the administration, are family members whose relationships can be verified by documents like marriage or birth certificates. That means spouses, children, sons- and daughters-in-law, siblings, including step- and half-siblings. Anyone with business or educational ties in the U.S. would be allowed to come and go freely too.
Relationships that the government does not recognize as close enough to qualify for visa consideration? The grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers and sisters in-law, and grandchildren of U.S. citizens. Refugees who were cleared or scheduled to travel before July 6th would be allowed in, though the State Department took pains to emphasize that it would not, in the future, consider refugees' relationships with a resettlement organization here in the United States to be "bona fide."