Hawaii asks Supreme Court to lift Trump refugee restrictions

Hawaii asks Supreme Court to lift Trump refugee restrictions

By Gary Gately   
Published
Hands Held in Prayer, Protesters Protesting the Trump Travel Ban, January 29 2017, White House, (Photo by Doug Christian/TMN)
Hands Held in Prayer, Protesters call to end the Trump Travel Ban, Jan. 29 2017, White House, (Doug Christian/TMN)

WASHINGTON — The state of Hawaii urged the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to lift Trump administration restrictions on thousands of refugees’ entrance to the country — a day after the high court temporarily restored the refugee ban.

Hawaii’s 32-page brief came in response to a one-paragraph order Monday from Justice Anthony Kennedy, acting on the Justice Department’s emergency request. In the order, Kennedy blocked part of a decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that would have allowed entry to refugees working with resettlement agencies here.

Hawaii – along with a vast array of civil rights, human rights and refugee groups that have filed friend-of-the-court briefs – argued the estimated 24,000 refugees have a “bona fide” right to entry under the Supreme Court’s June decision.

The refugee restrictions come at a time when more people are uprooted by violence than any time since World War II, and the number of displaced people worldwide has reached a record 60 million, according to the New York-based International Rescue Committee.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly asserted that the refugee restrictions, along with the three-month ban on entries from six predominantly Muslim countries, are necessary to prevent terrorism in the U.S. as the administration devises “extreme vetting” procedures.

The justices said in June the administration could not ban people who have a “bona fide” relationship with people or organizations in America. But they did not define it precisely.

In July the Supreme Court temporarily allowed strict enforcement of the ban on most refugees, but ordered the administration couldn’t bar grandparents, cousins and other family members, as it sought.

Advocates for refugees told TMN the after the decision that the refugee restrictions would endanger the lives of thousands of desperate people fleeing war, hunger, poverty and persecution.

Trump’s legal team had bypassed the liberal 9th Circuit and asked the Supreme Court to intervene on the refugee ban, but the court refused, sending the case back to the 9th Circuit.

In a brief Monday, Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall said lifting the refugee ban “will disrupt the status quo and frustrate orderly implementation of the order’s refugee provisions that this court made clear months ago could take effect.”

The 9th Circuit decision lifting the refugee ban would have taken effect Tuesday, had the high court not acted.

In Tuesday’s brief, Hawaii argued the 9th Circuit had “faithfully” applied Supreme Court directives on the refugee ban.

“[The appeals court] determined — after  reviewing  hundreds  of  pages  of  declarations  and  exhibits,  conducting  full briefing, and hearing oral argument—that a refugee has a ‘bona fide’ relationship with a resettlement agency that signs a formal, written assurance to provide for her housing,  food,  and  other  essentials  of  life” the state’s lawyers argued in the brief.

The affected refugees had been vetted, and the U.S. government granted them admission to America they had been working with resettlement agencies as they prepared to move here.

“The Government entirely ignores the serious harms to respondents,” Hawaii’s attorneys wrote. “Hawaii is harmed when refugees with formal assurances are excluded; the State has a policy of assisting in the resettlement of refugees and cannot implement that policy if refugees with formal assurances are unable to enter the country.”

In their brief Monday, Justice Department lawyers did not challenge that part of last week’s 9th Circuit ruling allowing admission to people from six predominantly Muslim countries to extended family members, including grandparents.

The Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments Oct. 10 on the legality of the executive order imposing the travel restrictions on people from six predominantly Muslim countries and on refugees. But the original 90-day ban on entries from the mostly Muslim countries will have ended by then. And the 120-day refugee ban would last only a few more weeks.

The administration has not indicated whether it plans to renew, expand or make permanent the restrictions.

Trump had issued his initial travel ban executive order a week into his presidency, unleashing chaos at airports, mass protests in the U.S. and worldwide, condemnation from a broad spectrum of international leaders — and unprecedented attacks on the federal judiciary after judges blocked his travel ban.

The revised travel ban, the White House has said, took into account judges’ cited reasons for putting the original ban on hold, and predicted it would pass constitutional muster.

In August, Hawaii lawyers noted in a Supreme Court brief that President Trump had repeatedly called for exempting Christian minorities from mostly Muslim countries. In June 2016, he attacked opponent Hillary Clinton, saying she would “admit  hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East” who would “try to take over our children and convince them how wonderful Islam is.”

When he issued his revised executive order in March, he complained Muslims had been favored over Christians. Hawaii argues that violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, prohibiting the establishment of religion by the government.

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