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Federal judge expands list of relatives exempted from Trump’s travel ban

HONOLULU – A federal judge in Hawaii on Thursday expanded the list of family relationships needed by people seeking new visas from six mostly Muslim countries to avoid President Trump’s travel ban.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ordered the government not to enforce the ban on grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the U.S.

“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson said in his ruling. “Indeed grandparents are the epitome of close family members.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last month exempted visa applicants from the ban if they can prove a “bona fide” relationship with a U.S. citizen or entity.

The Trump administration has said the ban won’t apply to citizens of the six countries with a parent, spouse, fiance, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the U.S.

Hawaii said grandparents, uncles and aunts and other close relatives should also be exempted. The state asked Watson, who blocked the president’s revised travel ban in March, to clarify that those family members are also exempt from the ban.

Watson rejected Hawaii’s request, saying the state should go to the U.S. Supreme Court since it was seeking to clarify that court’s requirement of a “bona fide relationship.”

Hawaii appealed Watson’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court said Watson’s ruling was not appealable under federal judicial laws. The 9th Circuit, however, said Watson had the authority to interpret the Supreme Court’s order and block any violation of it. Hawaii then renewed its last week request with Watson in a different form.

“Because plaintiffs now seek such injunctive relief, the court reaches the merits of their request, consistent with the Ninth Circuit’s guidance,” Watson wrote.

The Hawaii attorney general’s office didn’t immediately comment on Watson’s ruling.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment Thursday.

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