Tuesday 25 April 2017

Judge in Hawaii extends order blocking Donald Trump's travel ban

Hawaii says Donald Trump's policy discriminates against Muslims and hurts the state's tourist-dependent economy (AP)
Hawaii says Donald Trump's policy discriminates against Muslims and hurts the state's tourist-dependent economy (AP)

A federal judge in Hawaii has decided to extend his order blocking President Donald Trump's travel ban.

US District Judge Derrick Watson issued the longer-lasting hold on the ban 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 did not bother to turn off, state attorney general Douglas Chin told the judge.

Extending the temporary order until the state's lawsuit is resolved would ensure the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens across the US are vindicated after "repeated stops and starts of the last two months", the state has said.

The government says the ban falls within the president's power to protect national security. Hawaii has only spelled out generalised concerns about its effect on students and tourism, Department of Justice lawyer Chad Readler told the judge by telephone.

The Trump administration had asked Judge Watson to narrow his ruling to cover only the part of Mr Trump's executive order that suspends new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries.

Mr Readler said a freeze on the US refugee programme had no effect on Hawaii.

Judge Watson rejected that argument, preventing the administration from halting the flow of refugees.

He 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 was not clear that the refugee suspension was similarly motivated by religious bias.

Judge Watson noted that the government said 20 refugees had been resettled in Hawaii since 2010.

"Is this a mathematical exercise that 20 isn't enough? ... What do I make of that?" the judge asked Mr Readler.

The lawyer replied that 20 is simply a small number of refugees.

"In whose judgment?" Judge Watson asked.

Hawaii was the first state to sue over Mr 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, Mr Chin quoted Mr 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," Mr Chin said.

Earlier this month, Judge 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 programme. His ruling came hours before the federal government planned to start enforcing Mr Trump's executive order.

The president called Judge Watson's previous ruling "unprecedented judicial overreach".

AP

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