Washington (AFP) - The US Supreme Court kept the Trump administration's strict refugee ban in place Monday, at least temporarily dashing the hopes of some 24,000 already-approved immigrants.
Justices of the highest court in the land accepted the administration's emergency petition to stay a ruling by the San Francisco Appeals Court last week that would have allowed thousands of refugees already in the pipeline to come to the United States despite the ban.
That put the broader legal challenges to the travel ban -- which halts all refugees and travelers from six mostly Muslim countries -- off until an expected Supreme Court review on October 10.
The court, however, left the door open for opponents of the ban to file their arguments against it by midday Tuesday, paving the way for yet another reversal on the status of possible refugee arrivals.
On September 8, the San Francisco court upheld a ruling against the travel ban, saying that refugees who have formal assurances of resettlement in the United States from refugees assistance agencies are not covered by the ban.
The ruling would have taken affect on Tuesday, reopening the door to 24,000 people left in limbo by President Donald Trump's on-again off-again travel ban.
The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to place that decision on hold until the high court can review broader issues of the travel ban next month.
It argued that the appeals court's ruling "would upend the status quo and do far greater harm to the national interest."
- Softened definition of 'bona fide' ties -
The arguments hinged on a stipulation in the travel ban that refugees in the pipeline can only be accepted if they have a "bona fide relationship" with a US individual or entity.
The government said formal assurances from a refugee agency that may not have had direct, personal contacts with the refugee were not covered in that exception.
But opponents to the ban sued, arguing that people with formal assurances should be admitted.
In its filing Monday, however, the Justice Department gave in on another challenge to the travel ban over its narrow interpretation of "bona fide relationship" when determining exceptions for refugee family members.
Originally, the agency said the definition included parents, spouses, children, sons- and daughters-in-law, siblings and step- and half-siblings of people in the United States.
The appeals court ruled that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of American citizens must also be included in the definition of close family and be accepted into the country.
The six countries included in the general travel ban are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.