Hawaii’s attorney general ready for potential Supreme Court battle over Trump’s travel ban

Another federal court has ruled against President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.

Now a decision first made locally is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monday’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a Hawaii judge’s decision.

In March, federal judge Derrick Watson blocked the president’s temporary ban of refugees and foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The nations include Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, and Libya.

The appeals court’s unanimous ruling likely means this battle will end up in our nation’s highest court, and Hawaii’s attorney general says he’s ready for the next round.

While federal law allows the president authority to exclude foreigners from entering the country if it was harmful to the American public, federal judges ruled that President Trump’s revised travel ban could not prove why a ban was needed, and that it restricted entry based on nationality.

“The president doesn’t have this unfettered, broad, unchecked authority for him to do whatever he wants,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “He’s not the king. He’s not a dictator.”

Chin says he expects the case to be heard in the Supreme Court.

On June 1, the Trump administration asked the high court to stay the injunction in Hawaii v. Trump that has blocked implementation of the ban. The state filed a memorandum in opposition.

“To me, this is everything we learned in social studies and high school coming to play exactly the way it should. It’s not over yet, but we’ll see how it all plays out,” Chin said. “It tells the world we’ve got three branches of government. We’ve got a checks and balances system.”

Hawaii’s memorandum in opposition states in part:

“Our foundational text, the First Amendment, bars the Government from making a citizen’s status in the political community dependent on his faith. The President unquestionably violates that command when he issues an Order that disproportionately burdens Muslim-Americans, while denigrating the Muslim faith and making it abundantly clear that the Order’s harmful effect on Muslims is far from incidental. To date, the injunction has prevented that constitutional violation. In doing so, it has safeguarded religious liberty and demonstrated the strength of our Constitution and the courts that protect it. Nonetheless, the Government now asks this Court to stay the injunction … [t]he long-term consequences [of a stay] would be even more significant. As soon as the unconstitutional Order is implemented, our Framers’ greatest fears for this Nation will be realized; the Order will serve as an ominous ‘Beacon on our Coast, warning’ the ‘persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion’ that they must ‘seek some other haven.'”

The state budgeted $150,000 to fight the travel ban, and Chin says that money has already been spent. We’re told the rest of the work is being done pro bono, so the state isn’t spending more than was budgeted.

Gov. David Ige released the following statement:

“Hawai‘i made the right decision in challenging a travel ban that had little factual basis and discriminated based strictly on national origin and religion. We will continue to stand against any attempts to erode the Constitution’s protections and to violate existing laws.”

As the case makes its way to the nation’s capitol, Hakim Ouansafi with the Muslim Association of Hawaii explains a ban could have a deep impact on the islands.

“It’s difficult for a University of Hawaii professor to not have this wife join him, because she happened to be from (one of the banned) countries. These are real stories. It’s difficult for a visa holder with one year left in their studies to say, ‘I can’t check on my mother who is sick because I might not be able to come back to finish my studies,'” said Ouansafi.

The state has argued that a ban would hurt tourism, a driving force in Hawaii’s local economy.

“We want roads, streets, education, rail. Those are paid through taxes. Taxes include things like the hotel taxes. That money helps goes to fund our infrastructure,” said political analyst John Hart. “Less tourism means simply less money for people who live here.”

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