Judge Places Nationwide Block on Trump's Revised Travel Ban
By VOA News March 15, 2017
An angry President Donald Trump promised to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, after a federal judge in Hawaii put his revised travel ban on hold Wednesday, hours before it was to take effect.
Judge Derrick Watson wrote that lawyers representing the U.S. Pacific state showed "irreparable injury is likely if the requested relief is not issued."
Trump told supporters in Nashville, Tennessee, hours after the judge's ruling, that "the danger is clear, the law is clear, the need for my executive order is clear," adding that he has the authority to control who is allowed into the country to keep the American people safe.
Trump accused the U.S. District Court in Hawaii of unprecedented judicial overreach, and said he would "take our case as far as it needs to go."
Hawaii argued that Trump's temporary ban on travelers and migrants from six Muslim majority countries would harm tourism, on which the Hawaiian economy heavily depends. The state also contended that its Muslim residents would suffer because their relatives from the six affected countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – would not be able to visit.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said lawyers demonstrated that the Trump ban showed a hostility toward religion, which he called unconstitutional. Chin said the winners in this decision are children and the next generation.
At least six other states are suing to stop the travel ban.
Ruling fought in several states
The ruling came as opponents renewed their legal challenges Wednesday across the country, asking judges in Hawaii, Maryland and Washington state to block the executive order that targets people from six predominantly Muslim countries.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued 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 also 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 than the old. The states' First Amendment claim has not been resolved.
In Maryland, lawyers argued that the ban discriminates against Muslims. It also argues it is illegal for the Trump administration to reduce by half, from 110,000 to 50,000, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S.
Justice Department disputes religious argument
Attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department countered that the revised travel ban "doesn't say anything about religion. It doesn't draw any religious distinctions."
This is the second time a federal judge has put a hold on the Trump travel ban. U.S. District Judge James Robart was the first.
An appeals court in San Francisco questioned the constitutionality of the first version when it upheld Robart's decision to put it on hold.
Trump said his revised travel ban was a "watered down version of the first order ... that never should have been blocked to start with."
In Washington state, Robart 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.
Revised ban pared from original
Trump issued a revised ban that removed Iraq from the original list of affected countries and also exempts travelers who were issued visas before January 22.
The original travel ban created chaos in airports around the world as immigration officers struggled to figure out who was covered.
U.S. attorneys say the president of the United States has the authority to control who is allowed into the country in the name of national security.
The most recent travel related executive order, issued by the president March 6, barred visas to nationals of the six countries for 90 days and all refugee admissions for 120 days beginning Thursday, with the government citing "national security" concerns.
Opponents of the executive orders maintain that the second order is as religiously discriminatory and unconstitutional as the first.
"No matter how far President Trump tries to run away from his initial statements that this was a ban on Muslims and discrimination against Muslims, he can't erase where this order originated – in an effort to discriminate against Muslims on the basis of their religion," said Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, on a call with reporters Tuesday.
At various times while campaigning for president, Trump made sweeping statements calling for barring refugees and Muslims from entering the United States.
Victoria Macchi and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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