Federal judge partially lifts Trump's ban on refugees
Seattle (US): A federal judge in Seattle has partially lifted a Trump administration ban on certain refugees.
US District Judge James Robart ruled Saturday for the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Family Service after they urged him to halt the ban on refugees from some mostly Muslim countries.
Robart ordered the federal government to process certain refugee applications. He says his order does not apply to refugees without a "bona fide" relationship to a person or an entity within the United States.
On October 24, the Trump administration effectively paused refugee admissions from 11 countries mostly in the Middle East and Africa, pending a 90-day security review, which was set to expire in late January.
The countries subject to the review are Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. For each of the last three years, refugees from the 11 countries made up more than 40 percent of U.S. admissions. A Reuters review of State Department data showed that as the review went into effect, refugee admissions from the 11 countries plummeted.
Robart ruled that the administration could carry out the security review, but that it could not stop processing or admitting refugees from the 11 countries in the meantime, as long as those refugees have a "bona fide" connection to the United States.
As part of its new restrictions, the Trump administration had also paused a program that allowed for family reunification for refugees, pending further security screening procedures being put into place.
Robart ordered the government to re-start the program, known as "follow-to-join". Approximately 2,000 refugees were admitted into the United States in fiscal year 2015 under the program, according to Department of Homeland Security data.
Refugee advocacy groups praised Robart's decision.
"This ruling brings relief to thousands of refugees in precarious situations in the Middle East and East Africa, as well as to refugees already in the U.S. who are trying to reunite with their spouses and children," said Mariko Hirose, litigation director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, one of the plaintiffs in the case.
A Justice Department spokeswoman, Lauren Ehrsam, said the department disagrees with Robart's ruling and is "currently evaluating the next steps".
Robart, who was appointed to the bench by Republican former President George W. Bush, emerged from relative obscurity in February, when he issued a temporary order to lift the first version of Trump's travel ban.