Thursday, June 29, 2017

Travel ban to take effect as State Department defines ‘close family’ - Washingtonpost

Visitors from six predominantly Muslim nations will be denied visas to the United States under new guidelines that take effect Thursday night unless they can prove very close family ties to someone already in the country or an institution such as a workplace or university.

The rules sent to diplomatic posts worldwide Wednesday prompted immediate criticism for the narrow and somewhat quirky definition of close family. A son-in-law or a step-daughter can get in, but a grandmother or uncle cannot. Senior administration officials said they drew up the list of close relationships based on the definition of family in the Immigration and Nationality Act passed almost 50 years ago.

The relatives deemed sufficiently close family to exempt people from the travel ban, whether as visitors or refugees, are listed as a parent, spouse, child, an adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling, as well as their stepfamily counterparts. The exemption explicitly does not cover a number of other family relationships: grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiances and other “extended” family members.

The travel ban stems from an executive order blocking travelers from six targeted countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the United States for 90 days, and 120 days for refugees. The restrictions have been challenged in courts around the country, but the Supreme Court has allowed a modified version to go forward for the time being.

The rules do not take effect until 8 p.m. Thursday, a deadline imposed in part to prevent people from being unexpectedly turned away upon arrival in the United States, as happened earlier in the year when a sudden ban surprised people already en route.

Travelers holding visas who already have booked travel through at least July 6 should have no problems getting admitted, administration officials said. It is unclear what will happen to people with flight reservations on later dates.

Some civil rights and immigration law groups said they would send monitors to airports in Washington, New York and Los Angeles to provide assistance to anyone wrongfully denied entry. But senior U.S. officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, at the administration's insistence, said they did not expect any confusion and that almost nobody should be denied entry under the new guidelines in the coming days.

The new guidelines’ impact on refu­gee flows this year is difficult to predict. More than half of all U.S.-bound refugees typically have some family in the United States, though in some cases the relatives may be in the excluded category. A cap of 50,000 refugees who will be allowed to resettle in the United States this fiscal year has nearly been reached, with 49,009 refugees admitted as of Wednesday night.

The cap is expected to be hit within a week or so, and refugees expecting to travel to the United States through July 6 should have no problems getting admitted, officials said.

The new rules were drawn up after the Supreme Court ruled Monday that a limited version of the travel ban could take effect until after it hears the case, probably in the first week in October. It said visitors with a “bona fide” relationship with a person or entity in the United States could not be barred, prompting the Justice and State departments to come up with instructions on who fits in that category.

Officials say that cases will be judged on their individual merits. So some visitors and refugees may be granted entry even without a "bona fide" relationship, such as a grandmother or an aunt who raised someone now living in the United States.

"We will look at it case by case," said another administration official. "It won't be the relationship that's the determining factor." - Read More

Travel ban to take effect as State Department defines ‘close family’


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