Grandparents of U.S. citizens from six Muslim-majority countries facing travel restrictions to the United States may now obtain visas, according to a U.S. Department of State cable reviewed by Reuters.
The news indicates the State Department will comply with the latest court ruling on the Trump administration’s executive order preventing certain immigrants and refugees from obtaining visas to enter the country.
The latest change to Trump’s Muslim ban — which is amid a complicated court battle winding its way up to the Supreme Court — comes in a memo sent to U.S. diplomats overseas dated last Friday.
In the memo, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson writes that the United States cannot bar grandparents and other relatives of U.S. citizens, as Reuters reported. This is a reversal from the State Department’s previous interpretation of Trump’s ban, which relied on a very narrow definition of “close familial relationship” that did not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings-in-law from the countries of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
“Posts should therefore reconsider and readjudicate a visa application refused solely based on the E.O. in which the applicant contacts the consular section claiming to have a close family member that exempts them from the E.O. on the basis of the new guidance,” according to the cable that Reuters obtained.
The guidance reflects a ruling from U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson late Thursday night. Watson’s order rejected the government’s effort to block issuing visas to these family members, writing that barring family members of U.S. residents like grandparents was the “antithesis of common sense.” He also directed the government to honor the fact that refugees have a bona fide relationship with U.S.-based refugee resettlement organizations.
Tillerson’s cable is unclear on another part of Trump’s executive order that denies entry to refugees and other immigrants without a “close familial relationship.” Under Trump’s order, these foreigners are prohibited from entering the country altogether.
Immediately after Watson’s ruling, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to step in and halt the lower court order.
After the State Department started enforcing its restriction of the so-called “grandmother ban,” people took to social media to post photos of their family members from these countries as a reminder that their grandparents aren’t terrorists.
There is no evidence that restricting travel of foreigners from these six countries is accomplishing the ostensible goal of strengthening national security, as President Donald Trump purportedly is claiming to do with this executive order. In fact, not one of the hijackers who committed the atrocious terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 came from six countries currently facing travel restrictions.