HI Judge Extends Block of Travel Ban 03/30 06:28
A federal judge in Hawaii decided Wednesday to extend his order blocking
President Donald Trump's travel ban, preventing the government from suspending
new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and halting the U.S.
HONOLULU (AP) -- A federal judge in Hawaii decided Wednesday to extend his
order blocking President Donald Trump's travel ban, preventing the government
from suspending new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and
halting the U.S. refugee program.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued the longer-lasting hold on the ban
several hours after hearing arguments.
Hawaii says the policy discriminates against Muslims and hurts the state's
tourist-dependent economy. The implied message in the revised ban is like a
"neon sign flashing 'Muslim ban, Muslim ban'" that the government didn't bother
to turn off, state Attorney General Douglas Chin told the judge.
Extending the temporary order until the state's lawsuit was resolved would
ensure the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens across the U.S. are
vindicated after "repeated stops and starts of the last two months," the state
Watson's ruling is an affirmation of America's value of religious freedom
and allows Muslims and refugees to face less uncertainty, the state attorney
general's office said in a statement. Chin was traveling to Mexico for a
western states attorneys general meeting and heard about the ruling while
boarding a plane, said Deputy Attorney General Joshua Wisch, special assistant
The government argued the ban falls within the president's power to protect
national security. Hawaii has only made generalized concerns about its effect
on students and tourism, Department of Justice attorney Chad Readler told the
judge via telephone.
The Trump administration had asked Watson to narrow his ruling to cover only
the part of Trump's executive order involving the six-nation ban. Readler said
a freeze on the U.S. refugee program had no effect on Hawaii.
Watson rejected that argument, preventing the administration from halting
the flow of refugees.
"It makes little sense to do so," he wrote. "That is because the entirety of
the Executive Order runs afoul of the Establishment Clause, where 'openly
available data support a commonsense conclusion that a religious objective
permeated the government's action."
Watson said in court that the government only argued for that narrower
interpretation after a federal judge in Maryland blocked the six-nation travel
ban but said it wasn't clear that the refugee suspension was similarly
motivated by religious bias.
Watson noted that the government said 20 refugees were resettled in Hawaii
"Is this a mathematical exercise that 20 isn't enough? ... What do I make of
that?" the judge asked Readler.
The government attorney replied that 20 is simply a small number of refugees.
"In whose judgment?" Watson asked.
Hawaii was the first state to sue over Trump's revised ban. The imam of a
Honolulu mosque joined the challenge, arguing that the ban would prevent his
Syrian mother-in-law from visiting family in Hawaii.
In his arguments, Chin quoted Trump's comments that the revised travel ban
is a "watered down" version of the original.
"We cannot fault the president for being politically incorrect, but we do
fault him for being constitutionally incorrect," Chin said.
Earlier this month, Watson prevented the federal government from suspending
new visas for people from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and
freezing the nation's refugee program. His ruling came just hours before the
federal government planned to start enforcing Trump's executive order.
Trump called Watson's previous ruling an example of "unprecedented judicial
overreach." The Department of Justice didn't immediately comment on the latest
Watson wrote that he won't suspend his ruling if the government appeals.
Enforcement of both provisions of the ban is prohibited nationwide until he
Hawaii's ruling would not be directly affected by a decision siding with the
federal government in the Maryland case, legal experts said. The 4th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals set a hearing for May 8 to consider the
"What a ruling in 4th Circuit in favor of the administration would do is
create a split in authority between federal courts in different parts of the
country," said Richard Primus, a professor of constitutional law at the
University of Michigan law school.
"Cases with splits in authority are cases the U.S. Supreme Court exists to
resolve," he said.