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Trump administration extends travel ban deadline for refugee admissions

An activist shows his support for refugees at Los Angeles International Airport hours before the travel ban went into effect on June 29. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
An activist shows his support for refugees at Los Angeles International Airport hours before the travel ban went into effect on June 29. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Refugee resettlement agencies say the State Department has given them updated instructions on President Trump's travel ban that extends the cutoff date for refugee admissions.

When the ban was put into place last week, the administration said refugees who had booked travel would be admitted through Thursday. After that, immigration officials would block all refugees, except those who could prove they had U.S. connections, such as close relatives.

The July 6 date was a government estimate of when the country would reach a 50,000-person cap on refugee admissions this fiscal year. Federal officials now estimate that the cap will be hit a week later, according to refugee groups. State Department figures show that 49,225 refugees had arrived in the U.S. as of June 30.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the State Department would not confirm the change and said more information would come out Thursday.

"The cap could be hit earlier, so it could be earlier than July 12," said Mark Hetfield, chief executive of the resettlement group HIAS, formerly known as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

HIAS is among several refugee resettlement groups that have challenged the ban, which blocks travel from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspends refugee admissions from everywhere for 120 days.

The travel order had been halted by lower courts until last month, when the Supreme Court said a limited version could carry on ahead of court arguments over it in the fall.

Justices wrote that people with "bona fide" connections to the U.S. such as jobs, university admission and family could bypass the ban but left it up to the Trump administration to define which family members counted.

The administration has said that people with "close family" in the U.S. -- such as a parent, spouse, fiance or fiancee, child or sibling -- could go around the ban. But it blocked others, including grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Immigrant and refugee groups are challenging the definitions in a Honolulu federal district court, saying the administration is violating the Supreme Court's orders. A federal judge there who previously ruled against the ban in one of the cases being considered by the high court could issue a decision on the matter this week.

Refugee advocates argue that their relationship to refugees should be enough for them to gain admission to the country despite the ban. The government disagrees.

 

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