Supreme Court Puts Hold on Lower Court Decision to Allow More Refugees into the U.S.

On Tuesday, September 12, the Supreme Court agreed with the Trump Administration to put a hold on a lower court decision that would have allowed more refugees to enter the United States. The court issued a one-paragraph statement granting the administration’s request for a stay on the president’s executive order on immigration. There were no recorded dissents to the decision.

The issue at hand is whether the president can block a group of about 24,000 refugees, who have assurances from sponsors, from entering the U.S. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had interpreted a Supreme Court directive earlier this summer to mean that such refugees should be allowed in, but the government objected.

The latest court actions are part of a complicated legal battle that began in January when President Trump first issued his version of the travel ban. The Supreme Court is to consider the merits of his actions at a hearing on October 10.

This current case comes from a Supreme Court decision back in June that approved a limited version of a presidential order that temporarily blocked refugees and citizens of six majority-Muslim countries. The Supreme Court justices said that President Trump could impose a limited version of the measure, but not on a person with a “bona fide” connection to the United States, such as having family members here, a job offer, or a place in a U.S. university (read more on that here).

The interpretation of a “bona fide” tie to the United States has since been debated. The government initially declined to include grandparents and other members of the extended family as meeting the standard, as well as refugees with formal assurances. A federal district said that the government’s reading was too broad and stopped it.

The Supreme Court largely upheld that ruling in July, although it put a hold on the portion dealing with refugees. Last week, however, a panel of the 9th Circuit weighed in, deciding that the administration could block neither grandparents nor refugees with assurances.

The Justice Department this week asked the Supreme Court to step in again, although only to block refugees, not grandparents and other relatives beyond the nuclear family. Even those refugees with formal assurances from a resettlement agency lack the sort of connection that should exempt them from the ban, the Justice Department argued in its new filing to the Supreme Court.

While these issues are expected to be addressed on October 10, time is also a factor here.  The measure was supposed to have been temporary – lasting 90 days for citizens of the affected six countries and 120 days for refugees. If the measure is considered to have taken into effect when the Supreme Court allowed partial implementation, the 90 days will have passed by the time the justices hear arguments on October 10 and the 120 days are very likely to have passed by the time they issue a decision.

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