Bona Fide Relationships

Immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries had a small victory this week, as a federal court in S.F. expanded the terms of "close-familial relationships."

Mustafa Abuzaid (right) from Yemen hugs his uncle, Ahmed Abozayd, after being detained for six hours at SFO Jan. 29, 2017. (Jessica Christian)

A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled in favor of families from six majority Muslim countries Thursday, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” Grandparents, cousins and other close relatives of San Francisco have now been ruled exempt from President Donald Trump’s desired ban on visitors from six majority Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 

As a refresher: Trump issued an executive order in January banning people from the above countries from entering the U.S. for three months “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” That caused major chaos at airports as people were held in immigration areas, and protesters flooded terminals. A number of judges then blocked the order; the block was then reviewed and upheld by the Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals in February in San Francisco. In March, Trump released a revised ban (sans Iraq), but nine days later it was blocked by another judge. 

In June, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold parts the temporary ban, with an exception for people who have what the court called “any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The Trump administration defined this as parents, parents-in-law, spouses, fiances, children, siblings, and sons- and daughters-in-law. 

But on Wednesday a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenged the definition of “close familial relatives.” 

“It is hard to see how a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, sibling-in-law or cousin can be considered to have no bona fide relationship with their relative in the United States,” the panel said, moving to exempt people with such relationships to people already living in the U.S. from the ban.

The case is going to the Supreme Court for a full hearing on Oct. 10. 

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