Halima Mohamed's children land from Somalia in NYC for the first time in seven years. They were supposed to be reunited earlier in 2017, but their security check expired due to delays caused by Trump's January travel ban, March 8, 2017.
Halima Mohamed's children land from Somalia in NYC for the first time in seven years. They were supposed to be reunited earlier in 2017, but their security check expired due to delays caused by Trump's January travel ban, March 8, 2017.

A scaled-back version of US President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees and citizens of six mostly-Muslim countries took effect on Thursday evening, stripped of some of the provisions that brought protests and chaos at airports worldwide in January.

The 90-day ban took effect at 8:00 pm EDT (0000 GMT Friday) along with a 120-day ban on all refugees.

On Monday, the Supreme Court revived parts of the ban, narrowing the scope of lower court rulings that had blocked parts of a March 6 executive order and allowing Trump's temporary ban to go into effect for people with no strong ties to the US.

The court agreed to hear arguments during its next term starting in October to decide finally whether the ban is lawful.

TRT World's Azadeh Ansari reports.

The "bona fide relationship" card

The Supreme Court exempted from the ban travellers and refugees who have a "bona fide relationship" with a person or entity in the United States. As an example, the court said those with a "close familial relationship" with someone in the US would be covered.

The Trump administration decided on the basis of its interpretation of the court's language that grandparents and grandchildren travelling from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen would be barred from obtaining visas while the ban was in place.

Business or professional links must be "formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading" the ban.

Journalists, students, workers or lecturers who have valid invitations or employment contracts in the US would be exempt from the ban.

The exemption does not apply to those who seek a relationship with an American business or educational institution purely for the purpose of avoiding the rules.

It defined a close familial relationship as being a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, fiancés or sibling, including step-siblings and other step-family relations.

A state department cable said grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, "and any other 'extended' family members" are not considered close family.

Arrangements such as a hotel reservation would not be considered a bona fide relationship.

Under the temporary rules, citizens of Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen who already have visas will be allowed into the US. But people from those countries who want new visas will now have to prove a close family relationship or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business in the US.

Fresh court battles

The ban is still likely to generate a new round of court fights.

The state of Hawaii asked a federal judge in Honolulu on Thursday to clarify the Supreme Court ruling, arguing that the Trump administration had interpreted the court's decision too narrowly.

In a court filing, Hawaii said the US government intended to violate the Supreme Court's instructions by improperly excluding from the US people who actually have a close family relationship to US persons.

Hawaii called the refusal to recognise grandparents, and other relatives as an acceptable family relationship "a plain violation of the Supreme Court's command."

Hawaii's Attorney General Doug Chin asked US District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu, who blocked Trump's travel ban in March, to issue an order "as soon as possible" clarifying how the Supreme Court's ruling should be interpreted.

Hawaii echoed criticism from immigrant and refugee groups that the Trump administration had defined too narrowly who should be exempted.

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups challenging the ban, called the new criteria "extremely restrictive," ''arbitrary" in their exclusions and designed to "disparage and condemn Muslims."

Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the administration's guidance "would slam the door shut on so many who have waited for months or years to be reunited with their families."

Asked how barring grandparents or grandchildren makes the United States safer, a senior US official did not directly answer, but instead pointed to Trump's guidance to pause "certain travel while we review our security posture."

The government expects "things to run smoothly" and "business as usual" at ports of entry, another senior US official told reporters.

Refugees left hanging

The administration said that refugees who have agreements with resettlement agencies but not close family in the US would not be exempted from the ban, likely sharply limiting the number of refugees allowed entry in coming months.

Refugee resettlement agencies had expected that their formal links with would-be refugees would qualify as "bona fide." But US officials said on Thursday that, for now, that sort of relationship was not enough to qualify refugees for entry.

The administration's decision likely means that few refugees beyond a 50,000-cap set by Trump would be allowed into the country this year. A US official said that as of Wednesday evening, 49,009 refugees had been allowed into the country this fiscal year.

The US Department of State said refugees scheduled to arrive through July 6 could still enter.

A ban on Muslims?

Trump first announced a temporary travel ban on January 27, calling it a counterterrorism measure to allow time to develop better security vetting.

The order caused chaos at airports, as officials scrambled to enforce it before being blocked by courts. Opponents argued that the measure discriminated against Muslims and that there was no security rationale for it.

A revised version of the ban was also halted by courts.

Administration officials promised that implementation this time would be orderly.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Dan Hetlage said his agency expected "business as usual at our ports of entry," with all valid visa holders still being able to travel.

It's unclear how significantly the new rules will affect travel. In most of the countries singled out, few people have the means for leisure travel. Those that do already face intensive screenings before being issued visas.

Much of the confusion in January, when Trump's first ban took effect, resulted from travellers with previously approved visas being kept off flights or barred entry on arrival in the US. Immigration officials were instructed on Thursday not to block anyone with valid travel documents and otherwise eligible to visit the US.

Source: AP