Lawyers for the state of Hawaii and other challengers to the way the Trump Administration is limiting immigration of foreign nationals and refugees leveled new charges of illegal government action in a filing with a federal judge Wednesday night.
After Wednesday, the document said, the Administration will stop allowing entry even of refugees who already have booked travel to the U.S., and already it is refusing to book travel even for refugees that the Supreme Court has ruled must be allowed to enter. Those actions cannot be explained, the challengers contended, by the government argument that it soon will be issuing new guidance on such travel.
Any delay in allowing refugees to enter, despite their eligibility to do so, “not only flouts judicial authority but puts lives at risk,” the challengers argued. “Every day, and every minute, matters.”
This document is the final one that U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson has ordered filed as he considers whether to rule that the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling on enforcement of President Trump’s immigration executive order permits the entry of more foreign nationals and refugees than the Administration is now allowing.
The judge had ruled previously that he did not have the authority to interpret what the Supreme Court meant in allowing the entry of travelers who have a close family or other connection with individuals or entities in the U.S. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit told the judge that he did, indeed, have the authority to interpret the Justices’ ruling and to order a stop to any violations of that ruling that he found to exist.
That is the authority that lawyers for Hawaii and other challengers have now invoked, and they urged Judge Watson to move quickly to give a more generous reading to what the Supreme Court has allowed and broader than what the government has decided it has permission to do.
With the Tuesday night filing, the stage is now set for the Honolulu judge to make up his mind. If he issues a ruling that permits more foreign nationals and refugees to enter the U.S., the Administration has said it would consider appealing any such order to the Supreme Court – at least to test whether the Justices would hear such an appeal or channel it first to the Ninth Circuit Court.
The Hawaii filing on Tuesday argued against any postponement of any order that the judge decides to enter relaxing the government’s restrictions. The government has not shown, the lawyers asserted, that it has any valid reason for interpreting, quite narrowly, what the Supreme Court had in mind when it said that entry must be open to foreigners who have a family relationship with someone in the U.S. and thus the government is not entitled to continue its present restrictions during the time that it might, or might not, pursue an appeal.
“The government tries every possible avenue,” the filing contended, “to ensure the court does not halt its policy of defiance.” Any delay, if the government should decide to appeal any Watson order relaxing the current restrictions would run for “weeks or months,” the document argued.
The attorneys for the challengers sought to bolster their claim of excessive exclusion of foreign nationals and refugees by telling Judge Watson of the plight of “a Ukrainian granddaughter trying to unite with her 93-year-old grandmother” and of “a refugee stranded in Malawi while his uncle waits for him here.” Under the current restrictions the Administration is enforcing, grandparents or aunts and uncles of individuals in the U.S. are among relatives who are barred from entering while the policy is in effect.
Those examples, the brief contended, make “a mockery of the Supreme Court’s directive that any alien with a ‘bona fide relationship’ to this country cannot be denied entry.” The Administration policy, it added, “is as wrong as it is cruel.”