The Trump administration has put in to effect new rules for deciding who can enter the US from six Muslim-majority nations under a modified travel ban that officials say will help protect Americans from terrorism.
The new rules, which require visa applicants to demonstrate a “bona fide” relationship with a US citizen or organisation, took effect on Thursday night, the latest twist in a controversy that has dogged Donald Trump since his first week in office.
As border control officers digested their new guidance, many observers predicted fresh lawsuits. “They’re going to sue,” said Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, referring to opponents of the ban. “They’re going to litigate the contours of who has a bona fide relationship.”
Implementation of the restrictions follows a Supreme Court decision this week that gave the administration the go-ahead to block people from entering the US if they had no previous link to the country. “We are living in very dangerous times,” said one senior administration official. “We need every available tool . . . to prevent bloodshed and violence.”
The modified ban is likely to be less chaotic than the initial version, which was rushed into place on January 27 and which refused entry even to travellers holding valid visas. Protesters swarmed airports in cities including New York, Washington and Los Angeles, and federal judges froze President Trump’s order.
Now, travellers from the six nations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — holding valid visas will be allowed in. Refugees already accepted for admission can enter until July 6. Administration officials promise an orderly rollout.
New visa applicants from the affected countries, which the administration describes as lawless incubators of terror, must prove they have a parent, spouse, child, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the US.
Other relations — such as grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins, and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law — will not qualify, according to a state department official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
Business and professional relationships, such as an employment offer or lecture contract, must be “formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course of events rather than for the purpose of evading” the ban, the official said.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments over the constitutionality of the travel ban in early October. But new lawsuits are likely first. “We may not see much action at the airports tonight, but going forward as people are denied visas, we’ll see more litigation,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law specialist at Cornell Law School.
Some of the groups that sued the government over the original travel ban blasted the modified version.
“It remains clear that President Trump’s purpose is to disparage and condemn Muslims. The reported guidance does not comport with the Supreme Court’s order, is arbitrary, and is not tied to any legitimate government purpose,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
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