Second federal judge blocks Trump's travel ban on heels of Hawaii ruling

Published: Mar. 15, 2017 at 10:32 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 17, 2017 at 6:42 AM HST
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U.S. District Court in Honolulu (Image: Hawaii News Now)
U.S. District Court in Honolulu (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - President Donald Trump has called a Hawaii judge's decision to block a revised travel ban from going into effect an "unprecedented judicial overreach."

"This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach. This ruling makes us look weak, which by the way, we no longer are, believe me," Trump said, during a rally in Nashville on Wednesday.

"We're going to fight this terrible ruling. We're going to fight this case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court."

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson issued the nationwide restraining order on Wednesday afternoon, less than two hours after a hearing on the issue had wrapped up.

Hawaii has "met its burden of establishing a strong likelihood ... that irreparable injury is likely," Watson said, in his order.

"When considered alongside the constitutional injuries and harms ... and the questionable evidence supporting the government's national security motivations, the balance of equities and public interests justify granting" the TRO.

He added, "National security is unquestionably important to the public at large. Plaintiffs and the public, on the other hand, have a vested interest in the 'free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.'"

The 43-page order came after a hearing in Honolulu's federal courthouse Wednesday, a day before Trump's ban was to go into effect. Early Thursday, A federal judge in Maryland then became the second to block the ban when U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang granted a preliminary injunction on a nationwide basis.

In a news conference on Wednesday afternoon in Waikiki, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said he was happy with the judge's decision, which allows challenges to the order to move forward while the stay is in place.

"What the public needs to understand is this is what the checks and balances system is all about," he told reporters. "What you're actually seeing is the strength of the American system."

In an interview on Hawaii News Now Sunrise on Thursday morning, Chin said it's likely that the case will be taken to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"What we technically should be doing is we should be getting ready to brief more arguments in front of Judge Watson, but what is likely to happen is that the U.S. government might do the same thing like they did in Washington, which is take an emergency appeal up to the 9th Circuit," Chin said. "We're in the same circuit as Washington. We could get a different panel of judges and so that might play into what decision is made."

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said, "We do believe that current laws provide a rigorous process of screening visitors to Hawaii that ensures the safety and well-being of our community. We felt compelled to assure that we will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of national origin or religion."

White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded to the ruling by saying "it just doesn't seem to make sense." He added, "I think for a judge to completely ignore that statute and talk about tweets or interpret something that's happening during the campaign trail is not keeping with how they're supposed to interpret the law. We tailored that second order to comply with the judge's order."

Hawaii became the first state in the nation to challenge the revised executive order last week. Other states followed suit.

The new order bars new visas for people from six Muslim majority countries – Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya – and temporarily shuts down America's refugee program.

The White House has argued the order is legal and is needed to stop terrorists from getting into the U.S.

Chin, meanwhile, has said the new ban is unconstitutional and would harm Hawaii's tourism industry.

"Essentially what you still have is a blanket ban against entry from people who are from six different nations, it used to be seven," Chin said. "There is a Muslim population that lives in the state, and they're a group that needs to be protected just like any group."

He reiterated that the revised travel ban is a Muslim ban from the beginning, which is a form of discrimination and a violation of the Constitution.

"It'd be great to protect our national security, just do it in a way that doesn't discriminate against people because they're Muslim," he said.

And even though Hawaii gets relatively few visitors from affected countries, he said it could create a "chilling effect" that would discourage international travel altogether.

"What makes Hawaii special is its ethnic diversity," he said. "Because what we do is we depend so much on air travel, to be able to travel from one state to another or between counties."

In his order, Watson agreed that Hawaii could suffer financially if the travel ban were to go into effect, potentially blocking tourists and students entering the state.

He also said the state was likely to succeed on a claim that the ban violated the First Amendment right protecting people against religious discrimination.

Other states – Washington, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon – have filed separate lawsuits against the ban.

Watson, the judge at the center of Wednesday's ruling, was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama.

He got his nod in 2012 and is currently the only Native Hawaiian judge serving on the federal bench and the fourth in U.S. history. He received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1991.

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