By Greg Stohr
The U.S. Supreme Court reinforced President Donald Trump’s travel ban, saying he can bar thousands of refugees from entering the country while the justices prepare to hear a broader challenge to the policy.
The high court put on hold a federal appeals court ruling that had said Trump couldn’t apply his travel ban to refugees once a resettlement agency had promised it would provide basic services for them. About 24,000 refugees are covered by those agreements.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Oct. 10 on Trump’s travel order, which imposed a 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from six mostly Muslim countries and a 120-day ban on refugees. The policy is designed to give officials time to assess vetting procedures. Lower courts have said Trump overstepped his authority and unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.
The high court on June 26 cleared part of the ban to take effect in the interim. At the same time, the court said the U.S. had to admit people with a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity.”
A series of court decisions since then — including a Supreme Court order in July — have said that people with grandparents and cousins in U.S. are among those who must be admitted. The administration said Monday it wouldn’t ask the court to revisit that issue.
In the same filing, the administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a broad version of the refugee ban. The government contended that so-called assurance agreements don’t meet the “bona fide” test because those accords are between the resettlement agency and the government.
“An assurance agreement does not create any relationship whatsoever with the refugee,” acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued in court papers.
Hawaii, which is challenging the Trump policy, urged the justices to leave the appeals court ruling in force, saying assurance agreements require resettlement agencies to make extensive investments in preparation for refugees’ arrival. The state also said refugees don’t pose any true security threat.
“Refugees with formal assurances are the category of foreign nationals least likely to implicate the national security rationales the government has pointed to in the past,” Hawaii argued. “By the government’s own admission, these refugees have already been approved by the Department of Homeland Security.”
The case is Trump v. Hawaii, 16-1540.