“Bona Fide” Relationships

Trump’s Travel Ban and How It Affects Communities

On June 29th, the Trump administration began enforcing a modification of it’s travel ban that affects people from six majority Muslim countries, as well as the worldwide refugee population. This comes after the Supreme Court ruled that this ban could be reinstated, with the provision that it cannot be applied to people with a “bona fide” relationship to a US citizen. How did we get here?

Travel Ban Recap

On January 27, 2017 Trump shook international waters as he signed an executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan) for 90 days, with Syrian refugees being banned indefinitely. Protests nationwide against this ban took place the very next day, as people were stopped at airports in route to the US. In the following days, a judge from New York and Massachusetts put a temporary block on part of the travel ban, and Trump fired Attorney General Sally Yates for not defending the executive order.

In February, the executive order was presented to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the travel ban remained blocked. On March 6th, the Trump administration unveiled the new travel ban, which took Iraq off the travel ban list, but kept the other six Muslim nations on a 90 day ban for citizens, and 120 ban for refugees. Hawaii immediately filed a lawsuit against the new executive order, and a week later the travel ban was blocked again until the legal issues could be resolved.

On June 13th, the Ninth Circuit Court decided to uphold the second travel ban until the October hearing, stating “the president must make a sufficient finding that the entry of these classes of people would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’” On July 26th, the Supreme Court heard the case, and allowed parts of the travel ban to officially be in place until it officially heard the case in court in October, with the exception that the travel ban does not apply to people with a “bona fide” relationship to a US citizen.

“Bona Fide” Relationships

The Supreme Court is defining “bona fide” relationships as people with family, school or job offers in the US. The ruling defines family relationship as following the strictly Western, nuclear family structure, but the definition of what constitutes a legitimate family relationship varies greatly by culture, by country and by region.

Though family patterns vary widely throughout cultures, anthropologist James Georgas breaks familial ties down into two main categories: two generation families (such as our typical nuclear family in the US- parents and children), and then there are third generation families (seen in more communal societies, where the grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces, additional wives and other kin of the nuclear family are considered immediate family).

Most of the world is made up of third generation families, and most of the refugee families coming to the US operate with this larger sense of what close family is. Previously, refugee resettlement has operated using the two generation model of family as well. Though there was a process for applying to invite more family members to join , it was harder for people from communal cultures to be together again in the US. Now that the travel ban has put restrictions on a “bona fide” relationship with a US citizen, it makes it even harder for refugee populations, and families of immigrants in the US, to be united.

That being said, I’m sure even the Western nuclear family set up would be harshly impacted if banned from seeing grandparents and other extended family.

Ongoing Challenge

The Center for Constitutional Rights is one of many in attempting to prove that the Trump administration has shown no proof that the people they are keeping out are trying to do Americans harm. The travel ban will not keep out people trying to do harm, it will keep out people trying to flee harm; it will keep out refugees, school groups, tourists and extended family members and friends.

The Supreme Court will officially hear this ruling in October, but it is asking the Trump administration to prove to them that this case still needs to be heard in October. The 120 day period for the ban will be over at this point. In a way, it’s kind of like the Supreme Court acting as a babysitter to the president- letting him stay up late and eat ice cream if only he will be quiet for a few minutes. The babysitter is hoping that if he’s allowed to eat his ice cream, he will get what he wants, wear himself out and go to bed early. I hope that’s how it turns out, but I have a feeling that this baby is not going to bed early tonight. That’s why it’s especially important that we as an international community work together for freedom, respect, dignity and equality.

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