Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Court won’t block Hawaii judge’s expansion of qualifying family members

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the following statement today after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson’s ruling expanding “close familial relationships” exempted from the administration’s travel ban executive order.

Ferguson joined a coalition of states on Tuesday urging the Supreme Court to reject the Trump Administration’s effort to place strict limits on familial relationships that qualify for a travel ban exemption.

“The Supreme Court saw right through the Trump Administration’s unconscionable attempt to keep grandparents and grandchildren from visiting each other,” Ferguson said.

“Ask any grandparent if grandchildren should count as a ‘close familial relationship,’ and the answer will be universal. President Trump’s attempt to keep them apart is just the latest example of the callousness of the travel ban.”

The Supreme Court accepted review of two cases seeking to block the president’s travel ban on June 26. In its ruling that day, the high court allowed the ban to partially go into effect, but said the ban would not apply to those with “a close familial relationship” to someone in the U.S.

Following the high court’s ruling, the Trump Administration issued guidance stating it intended to enforce its travel ban against close family members, including grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and first cousins.

On July 13, Judge Watson enforced his previous injunction, ordering the federal government to broaden its definition of close family.


In January, Ferguson filed a lawsuit challenging the legality and constitutionality of President Trump’s original travel ban. At the same time, he sought a temporary restraining order blocking its implementation while the case proceeds. Washington argued its challenge of the Executive Order was likely to ultimately succeed and the ban was causing extraordinary harm to Washington state and its residents, so the court should block the travel ban until the case could be ultimately decided.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart granted the nationwide temporary restraining order. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the order. In order to grant the temporary restraining order, the judges had to find that Ferguson’s lawsuit against the Administration was likely to succeed.

Contrary to some of President Trump’s subsequent tweets, his Administration chose not to appeal the restraining order against the original travel ban to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 5, the President tweeted: “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”

In fact, the Trump Administration dropped its appeal, and reimbursed the Washington State Attorney General’s Office for its court costs.

The Trump Administration declared its intent to rescind the first Executive Order and replace it with a revised travel ban.

Issued on March 6, the second travel ban made significant changes, but Ferguson and other Attorneys General believed the second ban was also unlawful and unconstitutional. Ferguson amended his lawsuit to challenge the legality of the President’s revised ban.

Judge Robart heard Washington’s challenge to the revised travel ban on March 15, but before he could rule, two judges in Maryland and Hawaii issued nationwide injunctions blocking the implementation of the ban. Judge Robart chose not to issue a ruling given that the revised travel ban was already halted.

The Trump Administration appealed those two injunctions. The Administration lost its appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which upheld the Maryland injunction, and ruled that the Executive Order “in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

On June 12, the Administration also lost its appeal of the Hawaii injunction before the Ninth Circuit.

The Administration appealed those rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court, which accepted review June 26. Oral arguments are set for October.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Interim Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov