Federal Judge in Hawaii Puts Trump Travel Ban on Hold

Hawaii State Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks as Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum looks on at a press conference in front of the Prince Jonah Kuhio Federal Building and U.S. District Courthouse on March 15, 2017, in Honolulu. Attorneys for the state of Hawaii filed a lawsuit to stop President Donald Trump's revised travel ban.

Hawaii State Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks as Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum looks on at a press conference in front of the Prince Jonah Kuhio Federal Building and U.S. District Courthouse on March 15, 2017, in Honolulu. Attorneys for the state of Hawaii filed a lawsuit to stop President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. (Kent Nishimura/AFP/Getty Images)

GREENBELT, Md. — Hours before it was to take effect, President Trump’s revised travel ban was put on hold Wednesday by a federal judge in Hawaii after hearing arguments that the executive order discriminates on the basis of nationality.

The ruling came as opponents renewed their legal challenges across the country, asking judges in three states to block the executive order that targets people from six predominantly Muslim countries.

More than half a dozen states are trying to stop the ban, and federal courts in Maryland, Washington state and Hawaii heard arguments about whether it should be put into practice early Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson’s decision prevents the executive order from going into effect, at least for now. Hawaii had requested a temporary restraining order.

Hawaii also argued that the ban would prevent residents from receiving visits from relatives in the six countries covered by the order. The state says the ban would harm its tourism industry and the ability to recruit foreign students and workers.

In Maryland, attorneys told a federal judge that the measure still discriminates against Muslims.

Government attorneys argued that the ban was revised substantially to address legal concerns, including the removal of an exemption for religious minorities from the affected countries.

“It doesn’t say anything about religion. It doesn’t draw any religious distinctions,” said Jeffrey Wall, who argued for the Justice Department.


Attorneys for the ACLU and other groups said that Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and statements from his advisers since he took office make clear that the intent of the ban is to ban Muslims. Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller has said the revised order was designed to have “the same basic policy outcome” as the first.

The new version of the ban details more of a national security rationale. It is narrower and eases some concerns about violating the due process rights of travelers.

It applies only to new visas from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program. It does not apply to travelers who already have visas.

“Generally, courts defer on national security to the government,” said U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland. “Do I need to conclude that the national security purpose is a sham and false?”

In response, ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat pointed to Miller’s statement and said the government had put out misleading and contradictory information about whether banning travel from six specific countries would make the nation safer.

The Maryland lawsuit also argues that it’s against federal law for the Trump administration to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. Attorneys argued that if that aspect of the ban takes effect, 60,000 people would be stranded in war-torn countries with nowhere else to go.

In the Hawaii case, the federal government said there was no need to issue an emergency restraining order because Hawaii officials offered only “generalized allegations” of harm.

Wall, of the Office of the Solicitor General, challenged Hawaii’s claim that the order violates due process rights of Ismail Elshikh as a U.S. citizen who wants his mother-in-law to visit his family from Syria. He says courts have not extended due process rights outside of a spousal relationship.

Neal Katyal, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Hawaii, called the story of Elshikh, an Egyptian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, “the story of America.”

Wall told the judge that if he is inclined to issue an injunction, it should be tailored specifically to Hawaii and not nationwide.

In Washington state, U.S. District Judge James Robart — who halted the original ban last month — heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which is making arguments similar to the ACLU’s in the Maryland case.

Robart said he is most interested in two questions presented by the group’s challenge to the ban: whether the ban violates federal immigration law, and whether the affected immigrants would be “irreparably harmed” should the ban go into effect.

He spent much of Wednesday afternoon’s hearing grilling the lawyers about two seeming conflicting federal laws on immigration — one which gives the president the authority to keep “any class of aliens” out of the country, and another that forbids the government from discriminating on the basis of nationality when it comes to issuing immigrant visas.

Robart said he would issue a written order, but he did not say when. He is also overseeing the challenge brought by Washington state.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson argues that the new order harms residents, universities and businesses, especially tech companies such as Washington state-based Microsoft and Amazon, which rely on foreign workers. California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon have joined the claim.

Washington and Hawaii say the order also violates the First Amendment, which bars the government from favoring or disfavoring any religion. On that point, they say, the new ban is no different from the old. The states’ First Amendment claim has not been resolved.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the original ban but did not rule on the discrimination claim.

Read the temporary restraining order below.

Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press Writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed from Honolulu.

  • Skip Conrad

    I don’t get it. It took lawsuits by 26 states to put Obama’s executive action (no executive order involved) on hold. But a single judge in Hawaii can put President Trump’s Executive Order on hold? Because it discriminates? Of course it discriminates!! That’s the purpose of the EO – to keep certain classes of people out.

    • Kurt thialfad

      It is so refreshing to read the words: “Executive Order No. 13,769” and “Executive Order No. 13,780”. In contrast to Obama’s obscure executive actions, where you could even find the text or instruction.

  • Kurt thialfad

    “violating the due process rights of travelers”?
    “against federal law for the Trump administration to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. Attorneys argued that if that aspect of the ban takes effect, 60,000 people would be stranded in war-torn countries with nowhere else to go”?
    You got to be kidding?
    The US takes 62% of the world’s refugees, yet we only have 4.3% of the world’s population – while still being the 3rd most populous nation on the planet after China and India.
    Some of these other nations need to step up to the plate. Like Russia – they’re extremely underpopulated. Like Israel – they’re right next door and they are a democracy. Like New Zealand – more sheep than people. Like Argentina – massive S. American nation with the population of California. Like Japan – they’re in a declining population crisis.

  • jurgispilis

    Take the A out of ACLU. It certainly doesn’t protect the civil liberties of Americans.
    On second thought, let’s call it the Alien Civil Liberties Union.

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