“Bona fide,” two words that have resulted in confusion, dismay, and yet victory for others. On Monday, June 26th, a day before the US Supreme Court entered into its summer recess term, a decision was made to lift part of the ban on President Trump’s executive order on immigration. The Supreme Court announced that a 90-day travel ban can go into effect, with one exception; nationals of the six countries listed who had a “bona fide” relationship with Americans or an American entity, would still be permitted to enter the country. According to ABC news, the term was vaguely defined to mean, “foreign nationals with familial connections residing in the US, students who have already been admitted into an American university and workers with existing job offers in the US.” The ban will likely go into effect this summer, raising concerns for many who had planned to travel to the US but who don’t comply with having a “bona fide relationship”. Mr. Trump on the other hand was thrilled with the decision calling it, “a clear victory for our national security.”
Earlier this year, on January 27th, Mr. Trump signed Executive Order No. 13769 which temporarily banned the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Sudan. The travel restrictions were set to last for 90 days, with an additional indefinite travel restriction on Syrian refugees, in order to keep “radical Islamic terrorists outside of the United States of America”. Immediately, chaos ensued. People around the country gathered to protest the order on the streets and at airports, including New York City’s JFK, and Los Angeles’s LAX. Even politicians claimed that the order was “un-American” and “mean spirited”, and the UN said that it was strictly forbidden under human rights laws. But the President persisted, blaming the airport problems on Delta Air Lines, and defending his controversial order. He took to his favorite platform, Twitter, tweeting "Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage ... protesters and the tears of Senator (Chuck) Schumer. Secretary Kelly said that all is going well with very few problems. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!"
After two weeks of protests and outrage, a federal judge in Seattle, ordered a national halt on the travel ban, on the bases that the executive order would have widespread negative effects on business, education, family relationships, and the freedom of travel. The order was sent to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the temporary ban remained in effect when the Court refused to reinstate it. However, the Department of Justice claimed that as president, Mr. Trump’s executive order was within his national-security powers. In the meantime, the White House focused on creating a revised version of the original executive order. Determined but unsatisfied, the President described the revised version, saying, "The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision.” March 6th, nearly a month and a half after the first executive order, President Trump signed the new order, removing Iraq from the original list, adding an exemption for permanent residents and visa holders, and replacing the indefinite ban of Syrian refugees with a 120 day ban, instead.
Unconvinced, Federal Judges in Maryland and Hawaii argued that the revised order contained the same legal issues as the first one, and the travel ban was again blocked. Hawaii became the first state to file a lawsuit against the ban, as Judge Derrick Watson believed that it violated the constitutional rights of the people of Hawaii, and hurt the state’s prominent tourism industry. The action temporarily prevented the new executive order from going into effect, but the Trump administration appealed Watson’s decision to the 9th Circuit Court, with hopes of overturning it. Ten days later, on March 16th, District Judge Theodore Chuang, from Maryland, blocked the 90-day ban on immigration.
Thus, the restricted travel ban remained blocked. On June 12th, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the decision to restrict the ban, arguing that unless the President made sufficient findings to prove that the entry of the people from the six nations, the ban would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” But the Supreme Court has now breathed new life into the ban by ruling that it can go into effect. The nine Supreme Court Justices compromised on permitting the ban to go into effect with the application of the “bona fide relationship” exemption. The opinion was unanimous, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear further arguments concerning the religious discrimination aspect of the decision, in October.
President Trump and his administration might be happy with the Supreme Court’s decision, but it has undoubtedly raised concerns and confusion to many others. The LA Times reported, “immigrant lawyers who had sued to block Trump’s orders were disappointed by Monday’s ruling.” Others worry that the decision ignores the unjust anti-Muslim aspect of the ban. And how would one go about proving that he or she has a bona fide relationship with the US? Not only is this decision predicted to lead to massive amounts of litigations and lawsuits, but it also places a burden on executive officials who must decide whether individuals have sufficient connections to enter the country. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has decided to hear arguments in the fall, but if the 90-day travel ban goes into effect immediately, it is likely that the restrictions will no longer be in place.
In this period of uncertainty, it is important to take a stance. National Immigration Law Centers and organizations like the International Rescue Committee, have expressed concerns. Supporting their movements and getting active is the best way to help, and to prove to the rest of the world that the US has and always will be a welcoming country, and that this executive order is not part of the true “American spirit.” President Trump argues that it is necessary to protect the security and safety of our nation, but I don’t think that I am alone when I say that there are several different, and less harmful ways of improving the vetting system for the entrance of foreigners into the country. As we celebrate Independence Day this year, we must remember that “those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves”-Abraham Lincoln.
For more information, including a more detailed timeline of events, watch this short video!