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FAQ on US Supreme Court Travel Ban Ruling

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June 27, 2017

From Migration & Refugee Services, US Conference of Catholic Bishops

After yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on Executive Order 13780, we know that there are many questions. We want to make sure that everyone has the most up-to-date information that we can provide. Below are some answers to some frequently asked questions. Since this situation is still fluid, we will update you as more information becomes available.  

What happened with the Supreme Court decision?

  • On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court decided it will hear two cases,

Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al v International Refugee Assistance Project, et el (Trump v IRAPand Donald J. Trump, President of the United States v Hawaii, et el (Trump v Hawaii). These cases concern Sections 2 and 6 of Executive Order 13780 (EO 13780), that is, the 90-day ban that denies entry to the United States for certain nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, the 120-day ban that denies entry for refugees, and the reduction in refugee admissions for FY 2017 to 50,000. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases together and will hear them in October 2017.

Meanwhile, what happens with the travel ban and the refugee ban of EO 13780?   

  • The Supreme Court has so far decided that between now and when these cases are heard in October 2017 that EO 13780 will continue to be halted in part. Immigrants and non-immigrants from the six Muslim-majority countries, and refugees will continue to be able to come to the United States as long as they have "any bona fide" relationship with a person or entity in the United States. However, someone without any such relationship would be at least temporarily banned from entering the United States according to the terms of Sections 2 and 6 of EO 13780.  
  • If the number of refugees with such bona fide relationships leads the annual refugee admission number to exceed 50,000 refugees for FY 2017, the Supreme Court ordered that such additional refugees shall still be allowed to enter.

What are bona fide relationships?

  • Bona fide relationship includes "people or entities in the United States who have relationships with foreign nationals [e.g., a refugee] abroad, and whose rights might be affected if those foreign nationals [e.g., refugees] were excluded."
  • For example, a refugee  has a bona fide relationship with an individual, if the individual is in "a close familial relationship" with the refugee. For a refugee to have a bona fide relationship with an entity, "the [refugee's] relationship [with the entity] must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading EO-2 [EO 13780].

How will this Supreme Court order impact refugees' ability to access the U.S. resettlement system in the short-term?

  • Refugees with bona fide relationships with U.S. people or entities as described above will be able to continue to arrive to the United States.
  • Beyond the immediate description, currently, we are seeking clarity about how the "bona fide relationship" definition is to interpreted on the ground.
  • We are hopeful and will advocate that, among others, this would allow admission of all refugees who are assured with resettlement agencies as of June 26; people who are eligible through the Preference 3 refugee category, through Preference 2 categories that are based on family relationship; through the Preference 1 category where the refugees have proven family relationships, and through family unity cases such as I-130 and I-730 that relate to Visa 92/ 93 cases. 
  • Note also that even if Section 6 of EO 13780 is fully implemented, there is allowance for admission for refugees "who, before the effective date of the order, have been formally scheduled for transit by the Department of State" and also admission of refugees who have been selected after a case-by-case determination for certain refugees for whom denial of entry would cause "undue hardship." This will hopefully include unaccompanied refugee minors and others with immediate protection concerns.
  • We have received guidance from the Department of Justice and Department of State, that "refugees who are scheduled to travel through July 6 may proceed with travel to the United States." 
  • The Department of State is awaiting guidance on cases that are booked to arrive after that date.  We will continue to advocate for all refugees already booked for travel after this date.
  • The number of refugees able to receive protection between now and the Supreme Court ruling in October 2017 will depend on how broadly and generously the scheduled-for-travel, bona fide relationships, and humanitarian waiver provisions are interpreted and applied. We are advocating and will continue to advocate for a broad and generous interpretation of the provisions.

What are the possible outcomes of the Supreme Court case in October 2017?

  • The Supreme Court may make a decision that ends the case in whole or part or may make a decision that refers the case to a lower court for further action. The long-term impact of these cases on immigrant, nonimmigrant, and refugee admissions and vetting remains to be seen.

For a printable version of this document, click here.