Judges have overruled the Trump administration's "artifically narrow" interpretation of who can be blocked from US entry. Their decision weakens restrictions on visitors to the US from five Muslim countries.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that the American government offered a limited view of who could come to the country following President Donald Trump's travel ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
A three-judge panel unanimously concluded that the US State Department "does not offer a persuasive explanation for why a mother-in-law is clearly a bona fide relationship, in the Supreme Court's prior reasoning but a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or cousin is not."
Their decision is the latest setback for Trump's controversial executive order, which has been in and out of US courts since it was issued on January 27 and later revised. The 90-day ban on visitors from five majority Muslim countries has been widely condemned at home and abroad.
In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that the ban could only be enforced unless visitors have a "bona fide relationship" with people or organizations in the country, including family ties or a job offer.
The government interpreted such relations to include immediate family members and in-laws, but not grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
The Appeals Court faulted what is said was the government's "artificially narrow" interpretation of the rules to attempt to justify a wider ban.
Judges on Thursday also ruled that any refugee resettlement agency that has a "bona fide" relationship with refugees should allow them to enter the US under a standard set by the Supreme Court.
The judges said their ruling on refugees would take effect in five days rather than the usual 52 days because many of them would be "gravely imperiled" by such a delay.
Under the 90-day ban, all refugees without visas or valid travel documents were also blocked from traveling to the country.
mm/rc (AP, Reuters)