Translating the Supreme Court's Travel Ban Ruling

Posted on June 29, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Important Tips Immigrants & Refugees Need to Know

The Supreme Court’s decision this past Monday, June 26, regarding President Donald Trump’s travel ban prompted questions, confusion and fear.  To help immigrants, refugees and others understand the decision, Catholic Charities prepared the summary and analysis below:


By C. Mario Russell, Esq.

Catholic Charities Immigrant and Refugee Services Director


The Supreme Court has decided to hear the Travel Ban case when its fall session begins in October 2017.

In the meantime, the Court will allow the administration to implement parts of Trump’s second executive order that

  • Bans the entry of
    •  nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen
    • from the United States
    • for at least 90 days
  • Suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days

In a narrow decision, the Court ruled that the government can only enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals who 

  • Do NOT  have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

What this means is that individuals from the six countries will be permitted to enter the United States if they have a

  • “Close familial relationship” with someone already here

OR if they have

  • “Formal, documented” relationship with an American entity formed “in the ordinary course” of business.

However, the Court said that such relationships cannot be established for the purpose of avoiding the travel ban. That leaves open subtle questions of timing and multiple motivation.

The government will likely begin applying the travel ban in the limited fashion permitted by the Supreme Court on June 29, 2017.

Who is likely to be allowed to enter the United States?
  • Individuals who have valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas issued on or before June 26, 2017: These individuals are not included in the travel ban.
  • Individuals with visas coming to live or visit with family members: The Court’s order is clear that individuals who “wish to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member” have close familial relationships. The Court used both a spouse and a mother-in-law as examples of qualifying relationships, but it is unclear whether more distant relatives would qualify.
  • Students who have been admitted to a U.S. university, workers who have accepted offers of employment with U.S. companies, and lecturers invited to address an American audience: The Court provided these three examples of individuals who have credible claims of a bona fide relationship to an American entity.
  • Other types of business travelers: It is unclear whether individuals with employment-based visas that do not require a petitioning employer will be able to demonstrate the requisite relationship with a U.S. entity.
  • Refugees: Most refugees processed overseas have family or other connections to the United States including with refugee resettlement agencies. The Court ruled that such individuals may not be excluded even if the 50,000 cap on refugees has been reached or exceeded.


Who may have trouble entering the United States?
  • Individuals who form bona fide relationships with individuals or entities in the United States after June 26, 2017: The Court’s decision is not clear on whether it is prospective or retrospective only. Individuals who form such relationships to avoid the travel ban are barred from entering.
  • Tourists: Nationals of the designated countries who are not planning to visit family members in the United States and who are coming for other reasons (including sight-seeing) may be barred from entering.

Of course this set of rules will create as many questions as it purports to answer. They indicated we will have to wait and see how they are applied, challenged, changed and implemented.

So, more to come. 


Visit Catholic Charities immigration web ection or – call our New York State New Americans Hotline at 800-566-7636- if you have questions about the Supreme Court’s travel ban decision or need free or low-cost legal help with other immigration matters.