Immigration Law

After 9th Circuit rejects travel ban appeal, Hawaii returns to district court

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9th Circuit

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The state of Hawaii is seeking an injunction against the limited version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban that is currently in effect, according to Reuters, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and a press release (PDF) from Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin.

That move comes after a ruling late Friday from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The appeals court said it didn’t have jurisdiction to clarify the U.S. Supreme Court’s order on the travel ban, but that the state was welcome to go back to the district court and ask to modify, interpret or enforce the Supreme Court’s injunction, or ask for an injunction against its violation.

“Today’s Ninth Circuit ruling makes clear that [U.S. District] Judge [Derrick] Watson does possess the ability to interpret and enforce the Supreme Court’s order, as well as the authority to enjoin against a party’s violation of the Supreme Court’s order,” Chin said in a press statement provided to the Star-Advertiser. “We appreciate the Ninth Circuit for ruling so quickly and will comply.”

Chin’s office announced later Friday that it has filed a motion (PDF) seeking to enforce or modify the injunction.

Watson, a Honolulu federal judge, had enjoined the entire travel ban in March. The U.S. Supreme Court partially reversed that last month, permitting a full ban on refugees and a ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries if the travelers do not have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship” with someone in the United States. The Trump administration has interpreted that to exempt parents and parents-in-law, spouses, children of any age, siblings (including stepsiblings and half siblings) and sons- and daughters-in-law of people in the United States. It later added fiancés.

According to the Volokh Conspiracy, the state of Hawaii had asked Watson to clarify whether the Supreme Court’s order shouldn’t exempt more family members and refugees who have relationships with U.S. refugee organizations. But Watson said Thursday that the state should ask the Supreme Court for clarification, since it issued the order. The 9th Circuit said Friday (PDF) that it didn’t fault him for so ruling, since he was asked to clarify the high court’s injunction. However, it said, district courts do have the power to enforce a higher court’s injunction, enjoin against violations and make changes.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the underlying Hawaii case, consolidated with a similar case from Maryland, during its next term.

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