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U.S. judge in Hawaii extends order halting travel ban

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu. Watson is hearing arguments today on whether to extend his temporary order blocking President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.

Update: 5:25 p.m.

Hawaii’s attorney general says a federal judge’s decision to extend an order blocking President Donald Trump’s travel ban affirms values of religious freedom.

Read the judge’s order here.

State Attorney General Douglas Chin says today’s longer-lasting ruling means that Muslims and refugees will face less uncertainty.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson granted Hawaii’s request to extend his previous temporary block of provisions that would suspend new visas for six Muslim-majority countries and halt the nation’s refugee program.

Watson rejected the government’s request to narrow his ruling to apply only to the six-nation ban. Watson is stopping the government from enforcing both provisions until he orders otherwise.

Attorneys for the government didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Watson issued his 24-page ruling several hours after a hearing on Hawaii’s request.

Update: 4:40 p.m.

A federal judge in Hawaii is extending his order that blocks President Donald Trump’s travel ban until the state’s lawsuit works its way through the courts.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued the written ruling today after hearing arguments.

Seeking the longer-lasting hold, state Attorney General Douglas Chin argued that the ban’s implied message is like a “neon sign flashing ‘Muslim ban, Muslim ban’” that the government didn’t bother to turn off.

The Department of Justice had said that if Watson grants the request, he should narrow the ruling to cover only the part of Trump’s executive order that suspends new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries.

Government attorney Chad Readler said a freeze on the U.S. refugee program had no effect on Hawaii.

Previous coverage

A federal judge in Hawaii questioned government attorneys today who urged him to narrow his order blocking President Donald Trump’s travel ban because suspending the nation’s refugee program has no effect on the state.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson is hearing arguments on whether to extend his temporary order until Hawaii’s lawsuit works its way through the courts. Even if he does not issue a longer-lasting hold on the ban, his temporary block would stay in place until he rules otherwise.

Department of Justice attorney Chad Readler, participating by telephone, asked Watson to be guided by narrower rulings blocking only the part of Trump’s executive order that suspends new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries.

Hawaii has only made generalized concerns about effects to students and tourism, Readler said.

Watson said the government only argued for the narrower interpretation after a federal judge in Maryland blocked the six-nation travel ban but not the suspension of the refugee program. That judge said it wasn’t clear that the refugee freeze was similarly motivated by religious bias.

Watson noted that the government said 20 refugees were resettled in Hawaii since 2010.

“Is this a mathematical exercise that 20 isn’t enough? … What do I make of that?” the judge said.

Readler replied that 20 is simply a small number of refugees.

“In whose judgment?” Watson asked.

The Maryland ruling noted that national security is not the primary purpose of the travel ban as Trump claims, Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin countered. Constitutional harm exists regardless of the number of people affected or for how long, he said.

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.

The judge, nominated to the bench by former President Barack Obama in 2012, had agreed with Hawaii that the ban would hurt the state’s tourism-dependent economy and that it discriminates based on nationality and religion.

Trump called Watson’s ruling an example of “unprecedented judicial overreach.”

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 has set a hearing for May 8 to consider the administration’s appeal.

“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.

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State of Hawaii and Ismail Elshikh vs. Donald J. Trump by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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