A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday placed a stronger hold on President Trump's plan to temporarily suspend immigration from six majority Muslim countries, striking another legal blow against the president's attempts to institute a travel ban.
US District Judge Derrick Watson issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against enforcement of Trump's second executive order on the topic on Wednesday, hours after holding arguments in the case. As predicted, this did not help President Trump's case.
Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin argued that even though the revised ban has more neutral language, the implied intent is still there.
Hawaii says the policy discriminates against Muslims and hurts the state's tourist-dependent economy.
Trump called the ruling an example of "unprecedented judicial overreach".
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Watson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said the government argued only for the narrower interpretation after a federal judge in Maryland blocked the six-nation travel ban but not the suspension of the refugee program.
"Where the 'historical context and "the specific sequence of events leading up to"' the adoption of the challenged Executive Order are as full of religious animus, invective, and obvious pretext as is the record here, it is no wonder that the Government urges the Court to altogether ignore that history and context", Watson wrote. The new ban came after the administration faced a series of court losses across the country on the original version, which Trump signed on January 27.
See you in court!
Watson also refused to narrow his ruling to only apply to the six-nation ban, as the government requested.
That ban was halted by U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, a ruling that was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Watson's latest ruling means that the order is blocked indefinitely until a higher court overturns it or Hawaii's lawsuit is resolved.
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Ismail Elshikh, the imam of a Honolulu mosque who joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff, argues that he's harmed by Trump's order because it prevents his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting family in the U.S. It's not clear how Watson's ruling will affect the mother-in-law's ability to obtain a visa.
Watson's ruling represented the latest defeat for Trump's attempts to halt immigration from terror-prone countries to give his intelligence community time to develop "extreme vetting" measures to ensure that terrorists don't sneak into the USA through the legal immigration system.
The Department of Justice opposed Hawaii's request to extend Watson's temporary order.
Earlier this month, Watson prevented the federal government from suspending new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and freezing the nation's refugee program. Hawaii has only made generalized concerns about its effect on students and tourism, Department of Justice attorney Chad Readler told the judge via telephone.
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