Appointed by Obongo.
The decision is a fresh legal blow for the president just two weeks after a Supreme Court ruling allowed the administration to implement its travel ban against refugees and foreign nationals from six countries who have no connection to the U.S.
The justices said Mr. Trump’s administration couldn’t enforce the ban against people with bona fide relationships to people or organizations in the U.S. Days after, the Trump administration adopted a narrow view of what relationships counted for an exemption from the ban.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which is defending the ban, had no immediate comment on the court order.
Administration officials said visa applicants and refugees with U.S.-based spouses, children, parents and siblings would be allowed in. But those with only lesser ties—such as grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and cousins—would be subject to the ban.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii took issue with that interpretation. He issued an order late Thursday, which applies nationwide, that says people with broader family ties are also exempt from the ban.
“The Government’s definition of close familial relationship is not only not compelled by the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision, but contradicts it,” the judge wrote.
Mr. Trump’s restrictions sought to impose a 90-day ban on U.S. entry for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and to suspend temporarily the U.S. program for admitting refugees. Mr. Trump has said the order would help prevent terrorism and allow his administration time to study vetting procedures world-wide.
Thursday’s order, like previous decisions in the legal saga, wasn’t a final ruling on the ban, but instead a decision on what rules should be in place while litigation continues over whether Mr. Trump’s restrictions are legal.
The Supreme Court will give the case a full airing in October, and it intended its June ruling to strike a balance in the meantime, allowing Mr. Trump to bar some travel, but not for people with close connections to the U.S., such as with family, schools and employers.
Judge Watson said the Trump administration’s ban implementation after the high court ruling tilted the scale too far in its favor and against those travelers with U.S. family connections. He ordered that the ban not apply to “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.”
“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members,” the judge wrote.
Judge Watson also loosened some Trump administration restrictions on what type of U.S. relationships qualify to exempt refugees from the ban. The judge said refugees aren’t subject to the ban if they are covered by a formal admissions agreement between the U.S. government and a refugee resettlement agency.
Lawyer Neal Katyal, who is representing Hawaii in its challenge to the Trump travel ban, on Twitter called the ruling a sweeping victory.
The Justice Department had argued the Trump administration’s implementation of the ban was faithful with the Supreme Court’s ruling. It also argued that only the high court should be able to clarify or modify its ruling.