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Most Americans Disagree With Trump Admin’s Enforcing Travel Ban Against Grandparents

One of the hotly contested questions in the Travel Ban litigation is the definition of “close family relationships.” The Supreme Court told the administration that it cannot enforce the ban against any foreign national who has a “close familial relationship” with a person in the United States. The plaintiffs including the state of Hawaii have argued that the Supreme Court’s order should be understood to protect grandparents. The Justice Department told the federal court in Hawaii that the plaintiffs’ views of close family relationships “lack any universal or cohesive support.” That is the question the Hawaii federal court refused to decide on Thursday, and tried to kick the issue up to the Supreme Court. So, what to make of the competing views of family structure and where grandparents fit in?

A poll out this week suggests most Americans fundamentally disagree with the administration’s position. The Politico/Morning Consult survey asked the following question and got these results:

“Do you believe each of the following should qualify as a close family relationship for visa applicants from six predominately Muslim countries wishing to enter the United States? Grandparent”

Yes, this should qualify: 67%
No, this should not qualify: 20%

That is not only a huge margin in general. It also holds true across different groups of people who were asked the question. More specifically, the margin held strong such that at least 60% of Americans agreed that grandparents should qualify as a “close family relationship” for the purpose of receiving visas from the six predominately Muslim countries regardless of the respondent’s party identification, religion, gender, age, income, education, or region of the country. Even among people who voted for Donald Trump for president, 61% agreed that grandparents should qualify and 29% thought they should not.

These results should not only worry the administration in the political arena. They also have legal significance. It looks like the Justice Department’s view of close family relationships is the one that “lack[s] any universal or cohesive support.” That kind of general social understanding and sense of human relationships will likely inform the judgement of Supreme Court Justices as well, and, indeed, most likely did when the Court issued its opinion last Monday.

Photo: Getty Images

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About the Author

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2015-2016) Follow him on Twitter (@rgoodlaw).