Email #277: “bona fide relationship”?

A federal court has yet again blocked aspects of President Trump’s travel ban. Last Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that any refugee who has received formal assurances from a U.S. refugee resettlement agency may still enter the country. The 9th Circuit judges explained:

“Resettlement agencies will face concrete harms and burdens if refugees with formal assurances are not admitted. In the same way that the Court considered the harms of the U.S. citizen who wants to be reunited with his mother-in-law and the permanent resident who wants to be reunited with his wife, the employer that hired an employee, the university that admitted a student, and the American audience that invited a lecturer, the district court correctly considered the resettlement agency that has given a formal assurance for specific refugees.”

The Supreme Court decided in June that anyone with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” is exempt from the ban.  A resettlement agency is an “entity in the United States” and a formal assurance establishes a “bona fide relationship,” and so the 9th Circuit’s ruling seems self-evidently correct. And yet the Justice Department argued oppositely.

The 9th Circuit also rejected the Trump administration’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s requirement that someone with a “close familial relationship” is exempt from the ban. And yet the Justice Department argued that grandparents do not have a “bona fide relationship” with their grandchildren. The 9th Circuit judges agreed U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson who blocked that aspect of the ban in July.

Since you oversee both the Justice Department and immigration policy, these issues should be receiving your special attention. And yet you have issued no press releases about the President’s travel ban since March. Do you agree or disagree that grandparents and refugees with bona fide assurances from U.S. resettlement entities should be exempt?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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