The administration late Friday appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court against the latest decision by a Hawaii District Court to limit the scope of President Trump's Muslim travel ban.
A federal judge in Hawaii ruled Thursday that grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and siblings-in-law must be added to the list of close family members who can still get visas to travel to the United States during the 90 days while the executive order is in force.
The State Department said on June 29 that only parents, parents-in-law, spouses, fiance's, children, and children-in-law would be exempt from the ban on visas for travel to the United States from six Muslim countries - Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen.
In appealing directly to the Supreme Court, the administration bypassed the San Francisco-based 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled against it in the case.
In its appeal, the U.S. Justice Department said Judge Watson's interpretation of the Supreme Court's ruling on what family relationships qualify refugees and visitors from the six Muslim countries to enter the U.S. "empties the court's decision of meaning, as it encompasses not just 'close' family members, but virtually all family members. Treating all of these relationships as 'close familial relationship(s)' reads the term 'close' out of the Court's decision."
Only the Supreme Court can decide these issues surrounding the travel ban, the Justice Department said. "Only this Court can definitively settle whether the government's reasonable implementation is consistent with this Court's stay," it said.
Watson's ruling Thursday was the latest twist in a long, tangled legal fight that will culminate with arguments before the nation's high court in October, the Associated Press said.
It could help more than 24,000 refugees who had already been vetted and approved by the United States but would have been barred by the 120-day freeze on refugee admissions, said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, a resettlement agency.
"Many of them had already sold all of their belongings to start their new lives in safety," she said. "This decision gives back hope to so many who would otherwise be stranded indefinitely."
"Once again, we are faced with a situation in which a single federal district court has undertaken by a nationwide injunction to micromanage decisions of the co-equal executive branch related to our national security," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "By this decision, the district court has improperly substituted its policy preferences for the national security judgments of the executive branch in a time of grave threats."
After many setbacks in lower courts, the Trump administration submitted a new version of the Muslim ban (known as Muslim Ban 3) to the Supreme Court on June 29th. Although the Supreme Court order explicitly stated that the ban could not be applied to close family members of U.S persons, the Trump Administration still decided to extend the ban to include grandparents and other family members of Americans with roots in Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Thursday, the U.S District Court from Hawaii declared that the updated Muslim ban was still unconstitutional, and stated that the Trump administration's interpretation of "bona fide relationship" was too narrow and "represents the antithesis of common sense."