Hawaii federal judge extends block on Trump’s revised travel ban

Hawaii federal judge Derrick Watson has extended a block on President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.

Wednesday’s order grants the State of Hawaii’s motion to convert a temporary restraining order (TRO) to a preliminary injunction.

Under federal court rules, a TRO expires after 14 days, unless the court extends it. In contrast, a preliminary injunction will last as long as directed by the court.

The Justice Department said Thursday morning it will continue to defend the executive order.

“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the federal district court’s ruling. The President’s executive order fails squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our nation’s security, and the department will continue to defend this executive order in the courts,” a department spokesperson said in a statement.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said by phone Thursday morning that he will not back down if the Justice Department plans to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“If there was a new order, or if there’s a new appeal, we will be looking at it and thinking about what this means for the people of the State of Hawaii and how it affects our values and also whether or not it violates the Constitution,” he said.

Arguments were heard on both sides Wednesday morning, and a decision to extend the block was filed late Wednesday afternoon.

Chin noted that Judge Watson “was really concentrating on what all the arguments were, and he asked some very good questions.

“Constitutional violation cases, it’s often brought by the minority, because they’re the ones who are being disenfranchised, and so in this case, that’s what was going on,” Chin said. “What (the government is) saying is (the suspension of the refugee program is) only 120 days. It’s not really that big of a deal. But I think what you’ll actually see is, there’s some great amicas briefs that have been submitted by refugee assistance programs, where they talk about how 120 days can be the difference between life and death for refugees, because that’s how long they’re waiting that they’re not able to come into the country.”

View the full order here.

“The requested nationwide relief is appropriate in light of the likelihood of success on Plaintiffs’ Establishment Clause claim. See, e.g., Texas v. U.S., 809 F.3d 134, 188 (5th Cir. 2015) (“[Because] the Constitution vests [district courts] with ‘the judicial Power of the United States’ . . . , [i]t is not beyond the power of the court, in appropriate circumstances, to issue a nationwide injunction.” (citing U.S. Const. art. III, § 1)), aff’d by an equally divided Court, 136 S. Ct. 2271 (2016); see also Washington, 847 F.3d at 1167 (“Moreover, even if limiting the geographic scope of the injunction would be desirable, the Government has not proposed a workable alternative form of the TRO that accounts for the nation’s multiple ports of entry and interconnected transit system and that would protect the proprietary interests of the States at issue here while nevertheless applying only within the States’ borders.”).”

“The Court is cognizant of the difficult position in which this ruling might place government employees performing what the Federal Defendants refer to as “inward-facing” tasks of the Executive Order. Any confusion, however, is due in part to the Government’s failure to provide a workable framework for narrowing the scope of the enjoined conduct by specifically identifying those portions of the Executive Order that are in conflict with what it merely argues are “internal governmental communications and activities, most if not all of which could take place in the absence of the Executive Order but the status of which is now, at the very least, unclear in view of the current TRO.” Mem. in Opp’n 29. The Court simply cannot discern, on the present record, a method for determining which enjoined provisions of the Executive Order are causing the alleged confusion asserted by the Government.”

Following the decision, Chin said in a statement, “This is an important affirmation of the values of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution’s First Amendment. With a preliminary injunction in place, people in Hawaii with family in the six affected Muslim-majority countries – as well as Hawaii students, travelers, and refugees across the world – face less uncertainty. While we understand that the President may appeal, we believe the court’s well-reasoned decision will be affirmed.”

The revised executive order had been scheduled to become effective on March 16.

On March 15, Watson issued a 43-page opinion prohibiting the federal government nationwide from enforcing or implementing Sections 2 and 6 of the order issued by President Trump that would have restricted immigration from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, and also temporarily suspended refugee admissions.

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