Justice Dept. again asks Supreme Court to allow broad enforcement of travel ban

Justice Dept. again asks Supreme Court to allow broad enforcement of travel ban

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to intervene quickly so that officials could broadly enforce President Donald Trump’s travel ban and block even refugees with formal assurances from a resettlement agency from entering the United States.

The filing by Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall demonstrates the lengths the government is willing to go to impose its desired version of the ban, even before the Supreme Court takes up in earnest next month whether the measure is lawful at its core.

At issue now is merely whether the president can block a group of about 24,000 refugees with assurances from entering the United States after the Supreme Court decided in June to permit a limited version of his travel ban to take effect. The nation’s top justices are scheduled to hear arguments next month on whether the ban is ultimately legal.

Since Trump inked his first travel ban shortly after taking office, the directive has been mired in a complicated legal battle.

The president ultimately revoked the first ban – which blocked refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States – and replaced it with a less onerous version that blocked refugees and citizens of just six of the seven countries. The Supreme Court ultimately decided Trump could impose that measure, but not on those with a “bona fide” connection to the United States, such as having family members here, or a job or a place in an American university.

It is how to interpret those that have a “bona fide” connection to the United States that is now being debated. The government initially sought to block grandparents and other extended relatives of people in the United States from entering – as well as refugees with formal assurances – though a federal district judge stopped from doing so. The Supreme Court in July largely upheld that ruling, though it put on hold the portion dealing with refugees.

Last week, a federal appeals court panel weighed in, deciding the administration could block neither grandparents nor refugees with assurances.

The Justice Department is now asking the Supreme Court to step in again – though only to block refugees, not grandparents and other extended relatives. Even those refugees with formal assurances from a resettlement agency lack the sort of connection that should exempt them from the ban, the Justice Department argued in a filing to the Supreme Court.

“The absence of a formal connection between a resettlement agency and a refugee subject to an assurance stands in stark contrast to the sort of relationships this Court identified as sufficient in its June 26 stay ruling,” Wall wrote in his filing to the Supreme Court. “Unlike students who have been admitted to study at an American university, workers who have accepted jobs at an American company, and lecturers who come to speak to an American audience, refugees do not have any freestanding connection to resettlement agencies, separate and apart from the refugee-admissions process itself, by virtue of the agencies’ assurance agreement with the government.”

Neal Katyal, a lawyer representing the state of Hawaii, which is challenging the travel ban, wrote on Twitter that he would “fight” the government’s latest request.

The government said the battle is urgent. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had said its ruling allowing refugees with resettlement agreements would take effect Tuesday, which Wall asserted could be disruptive.

“The government began implementing the Order subject to the limitations articulated by this Court more than two months ago, on June 29, which entailed extensive, worldwide coordination among multiple agencies and the issuance of guidance to provide clarity and minimize confusion,” Wall wrote.

Time is beginning to become of a factor in the broader fight over Trump’s travel ban, with the Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments on Oct. 10.

The measure was supposed to have been temporary – lasting 90 days for citizens of the six affected countries, and 120 days for refugees. If the measure is considered to have taken effect from when the Supreme Court allowed a partial version of it, the 90 days will have run by the time the justices hear arguments, and the 120 days will very likely have run by the time they issue a decision.

Some deadlines for reports have also seemingly passed. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary was – within 20 days of the order taking effect – supposed to have given Trump the results of a worldwide review determining what information was necessary from other countries’ to vet travelers.

The countries that weren’t supplying adequate information were then to be given 50 days to begin doing so, and after that, top U.S. officials were to give Trump a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a more permanent travel ban. Spokesmen for the State Department, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately provide answers to a list of questions about what action had been taken on those steps.

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The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes contributed to this report.