The Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a lower court’s ruling requiring the government to exempt grandparents and other close relatives of U.S. residents from the limited version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban that took effect June 29.

Key Points:

  • The Court denied a government motion for clarification of its June 26 ruling (the motion sought Court affirmation of the government’s more narrow interpretation of close family members), thereby leaving in place U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson’s July 14 ruling that the government must count grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews as “close family members” for the purpose of determining who is exempt from the travel ban. This is in addition to the family relations of parent, parent-in-law, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, and fiancé, which the government had already recognized as “close family members” exempt from the ban.
  • The Court did grant the government’s request to put a stay on the portion of Judge Watson’s injunction that would have expanded the number of refugees who would have been exempt from the ban, pending resolution of the government’s appeal of this issue to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Jr. and Neil Gorsuch said they would have stayed the entirety of Judge Watson’s ruling.

Background: The Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that a limited version of Trump’s 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen could take effect, but carved out an important exemption for those with a “bona fide” relationship to U.S. persons or entities. The government subsequently issued guidance exempting people with a parent, parent-in-law, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling residing in the U.S. The State of Hawaii sued, saying that grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews should also be provided exemptions under the Supreme Court ruling. Judge Watson agreed. While the Supreme Court affirmed this portion of his ruling, it stayed a separate portion of his ruling that would have exempted a greater number of refugees from enforcement of Trump’s executive order.

BAL Analysis: Overall, those with legitimate travel needs to visit family or for work or business will not be kept from traveling to the United States. Litigation is ongoing, however, and BAL is carefully monitoring the situation and will continue to provide updates on important developments. An FAQ on the Executive Order and who it applies to is available here.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact


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