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SCOTUS: Trump administration may move forward with limited travel ban

Yesterday marked the final day of the 2016-17 term of the Supreme Court of the United States. As anticipated, the nation's high court handed down six decisions, including the highly anticipated ruling on the Trump administration's so-called travel ban.

In an unsigned order, the justices scheduled oral arguments to decide the merits of the travel ban when they reconvene in October, potentially setting up a landmark case examining religious discrimination and the executive branch's exercise of national security powers. More significantly, the justices permitted a more limited version of the travel ban to proceed.

Specifically, the order established that the lower appellate courts had overreached in completely prohibiting President Trump's executive order from taking effect.

“The Government’s interest in enforcing [the executive order], and the Executive’s authority to do so, are undoubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States,” reads the order.

As such, the justices ordered a partial lifting of the injunctions against Section 2(c) of the executive order, which calls for visa applications for individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to be put on hold for 90 days, and Section 6, which calls for the refugee program to be halted for 120 days.

However, SCOTUS stopped short of giving the Trump administration carte blanche to enforce the travel ban. Rather, it indicated that only those "foreign nationals [from the six nations] who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States" may be subjected to the provisions of Section 2(c).

As for what having a "bona fide" connection in the U.S. might look like, the justices pointed to having family members, a job or a place at an American educational institution. Individuals like these should be able to secure a visa and enter the country per the normal routine.

Many experts, who have been busy dissecting the decision, indicate that the number of people affected by SCOTUS' decision to allow the limited travel ban to proceed will likely be small. Indeed, they believe that individuals looking to secure travel visas or visas from government lotteries will really see the most impact.

As for refugees, SCOTUS extended the same "bona fide relationship" standard. Again, experts indicate that this will have little impact on asylum-seekers.

Going forward it will be interesting to monitor the following:

  • How the Department of Homeland Security proceeds with the travel ban in the coming months -- the Trump administration pledged to begin enforcing it within 72 hours -- and whether problems arise concerning the definition of "bona fide relationship"
  • How circumstances change in the coming months, meaning whether the Trump administration moves to extend the travel ban or make it permanent, or whether the consideration of the issue becomes moot

As always, stay tuned for developments …

If you have questions or concerns relating to U.S. immigration law, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can answer your questions and pursue solutions.

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