Trump Administration Throws Grandparents Under the Bona Fide Relationship Bus

One phrase in the Supreme Court’s decision allowing Trump to implement a part of his Muslim ban is the key to determining which Muslims are allowed to visit the United States and which are not. Following Monday’s ruling, there was some anticipation that the phrase “bona fide relationship with a person or entity” in the United States would be the subject of litigation.

Since the ruling, Trump’s underlings have been busy decide which family members qualify under the court’s standard and which do not, lending merit to that possibility.

If you’re an in-law, congratulations, the Trump administration says you have a bona fide relationship with a person in the United States. If you’re a grandparent, watch out for those bus wheels.

According to a diplomatic cable obtained by the New York Times, the Trump administration defines “close family” as “parent, parent-in-law, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling whether whole or half. This includes step relationships. Moreover, “close family” does not include: “grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancés and other “extended” family members.”

This flies in the face of logic if the objective really is keeping terrorists and/or radicalized people likely to engage in terrorist acts out. It looks so random, a point noticed by Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigration project.

Initial reports suggest that the government may try to unilaterally expand the scope of the ban — for example, by arbitrarily refusing to treat certain categories of familial relationships as ‘bona fide,’. These reports are deeply concerning.

It does broaden the definition used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services arm of the Department of Homeland Security. They define “immediate relatives” as spouses, children under 21 and parents of adult citizens. But, there is an arbitrary character to the definiition of a “bonafide relationship”.

The cable goes on to say that a bon afide relationship with a U.S. entity “must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading the EO. Job offers and invitations to hold a lecture would qualify under the Trump definition. However, a hotel reservation or accepting the services of a non-profit group does not.

The Trump definition of close family actually broadens the definition to include more family members than previously allowed as ‘bona fide” – even if it contradicts the idea that this Muslim ban is about national security.

The Trump definition of bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity means they won’t be working against U.S. employers as happened with the first version of Trump’s Muslim ban.

It will be interesting to see the Trump administration explain to the Supreme Court how grandparents and fiancés are either detrimental to American interests or constitute a security threat but not parents in-law or stepparents. That will happen in the fall, even though this “temporary” Muslim ban will have exceeded the time period indicated in Trump’s Executive Order.