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Trump travel ban: Who counts as a ‘bona fide’ relative?

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    A family hug each other at Washington Dulles Airport on 26 June, 2017, after the U.S. Supreme Court granted parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put its travel ban into effectImage copyright Reuters
    Image caption The temporary travel ban will stop those affected from visiting relatives in the US

    President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban is now in effect, and has sparked a debate about who should count as a close relative.

    Under the rules, the US may refuse entry to refugees unless they can prove a “bona fide relationship” with a person, business or university in the US.

    The same terms apply to people with passports from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

    So who is defined as “close family”? The state department says: parents (including in-laws and step-parents), spouses, fiancé(e)s, children (including sons and daughters-in-law), siblings, and half-siblings.

    But others don’t make the grade – among them grandparents and grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

    The terms of the definition have raised strong emotions online, with social media users insisting their loved ones should be on the “bona fide” list.

    Many have posted pictures of their grandparents under the Twitter hashtag #grandparentsnotterrorists.

    Some addressed the US president directly, asking: “Is this the face of terror?”

    Image copyright Twitter/ekhatami
    Image copyright Twitter/MariaAfsharian
    Image copyright Twitter/CamiliaRazavi

    One user from Houston, Texas tweeted: “I have #Bonafide relationship W/my #GrandparentsNotTerrorists. Thank God my family’s been in #US longer than @realDonaldTrump #POTUS family!”

    Michael R Ulrich, a professor at the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights, shared a picture of a little girl, writing: “I know you’re my niece, but no more presents for you Olivia, our relationship is not #bonafide.”

    Syrian-American Rama Issa, the executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, told news website Quartz that the Trump administration is “redefining what a family is”.

    She had planned to marry in the autumn, and wants her beloved cousins, aunts, and uncles – who live abroad – to be there.

    Ms Issa told the site she had postponed her wedding, and is struggling with “the idea that a government can tell me who the members of my family should be”.

    Media playback is unsupported on your device

    Media caption‘This time we knew what to expect’ – immigration lawyer at San Francisco airport

    Lawyers and human rights groups have warned that the controversial travel ban – and its tricky terms – will prompt a “summer of litigation” as desperate refugees and would-be travellers try to prove their claims are really “bona fide”.

    Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA’s senior director of campaigns, said the guidance was “simply heartless,” and “shows a cruel indifference to families, some already torn apart by war and horrifying levels of violence”.

    She also called it a poor way to label families, noting: “It … defines close family relationships in a way that ignores the reality in many cultures, where grandparents, cousins and in-laws are often extremely close.”

    Have you been prevented from travelling by the Trump travel ban? Are you a grandparent, aunt, uncle, nephew or niece affected by the decision? Let us know by emailing

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