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Trump Administration Urges Court Not to Broaden Travel Ban Exceptions

The parameters on who is covered by the travel ban were based on federal immigration law, government lawyers said, and the judge should let them stand.
Image: President Donald Trump Travel Ban
President Donald Trump signs a revised executive order for a U.S. travel ban at the Pentagon on January 27, 2017 in Washington. FileCarlos Barria / Reuters File

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration urged a federal judge Monday night not to add more exceptions to the president's travel ban as sought by opponents who want to limit the ban's scope.

Justice Department lawyers responded to a motion filed by the state of Hawaii and other challengers, who argued that the government's plan for enforcing the executive order wrongly excluded grandparents and other relatives from the list of close family members who would still be able to get visas to travel to the United States during the 90 days while the executive order is in force.

The government said the judge should stick with the definitions announced by the State Department June 29, which said parents, parents-in-law, spouses, fiancés, children, and children-in-law would be exempt from the ban on visas for travel from six majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and siblings-in-law would be subject to the ban.

The distinctions were based on the definitions of close family members contained in federal immigration law, Justice Department lawyers said in their court filing. The judge should permit them to stand and not adopt "the broader, free-hand rules" proposed by the challengers, the filing said.

Hawaii and the other challengers said the Supreme Court, in ruling that the executive order could be enforced in part, intended the ban to apply to people in the six countries who have no connection to people or organizations in the United States. In its response Monday, the Trump administration said the Supreme Court required more — that visa applicants have a close connection to U.S. family members.

The government also urged the court to reject the reading advocated by the challengers of a separate part of the Supreme Court ruling, which said refugees would be exempt if they had a relationship to an American "entity." The challengers said that should include any of the organizations that sponsor refugees coming to the U.S.

Related: Hawaii Challenges Enforcement of Trump Travel Order

But the Trump administration said such a reading "would render the refugee provisions largely meaningless." The only documented relationship the sponsoring organizations have is with the government, not the refugees, the Justice Department said.

Federal District Court Judge Derrick Watson could rule later this week. In its filing late Monday, the government said if Watson intended to give the challengers any of the relief they sought, he should put his own ruling on hold so the Justice Department can file an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court.