posted at 8:01 pm on March 15, 2017 by John Sexton
A federal judge in Hawaii has granted a nationwide stay of President Trump’s temporary travel ban from six countries. Two other judges, including the Washington state judge who blocked the first version of the travel ban, were expected to hear arguments in similar cases today. From the Washington Post:
U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson froze the order nationwide.
Watson was the second of three judges to hear arguments Wednesday on whether to freeze the ban. A federal judge in Maryland said he also could rule before day’s end after a morning hearing, and the same federal judge in Washington state who suspended Trump’s first travel ban was set to hear arguments starting at 5 p.m. Eastern.
The hearing in Hawaii came in response to a lawsuit filed by the state itself. Lawyers for Hawaii alleged the new travel ban, much like the old, violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it is essentially a Muslim ban, hurts the ability of state businesses and universities to recruit top talent and damages the state’s robust tourism industry.
Hawaii’s attorney general Douglas Chin who presented arguments to Judge Watson was said to be cautiously optimistic about the case prior to the judge’s ruling. Last Thursday, Chin said he didn’t consider the state’s attempt to block the travel ban a Democrat thing but “a racist thing.” “If Hawaii doesn’t speak up about discrimination by national origin we are dishonoring and we are disrespecting what the past generation has gone through,” Chin said.
The Washington Post published a story Monday outlining the Trump administration’s case that the new version of the travel ban avoided problems inherent in the previous version. The administration responded specifically to a case brought up by the state of Hawaii:
[Hawaii] pointed particularly to the case of Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, whose mother-in-law’s application for an immigrant visa was still being processed. Under the new executive order, lawyers for Hawaii said, Elshikh feared that his mother-in-law would ultimately be banned from entering the United States.
Justice Department lawyers countered that the economic harms alleged by the state were “mere speculation” and that Elshikh’s mother-in-law had no reason to sue yet because she had not been denied a waiver to come into the country. The new executive order, unlike the old, spelled out a list of people who might be granted exemptions, including those seeking to visit or live with family in the United States.
“The Order applies only to individuals outside the country who do not have a current visa, and even as to them, it sets forth robust waiver provisions,” Justice Department lawyers wrote. “Among other things, therefore, plaintiffs cannot show that any individual whom they seek to protect is in imminent risk of being denied entry due to the Order.”
Since judges in other states have already heard arguments seeking a similar halt, they could order what amounts to an overlapping restraining order on the travel ban or they could decide that with the Hawaii ruling already in place, the issue is moot.
According to this report on MSNBC, the Hawaii judge concluded the new travel ban amounted to religious discrimination against Muslims based at least partly on “contemporary public statements.”