Hawaii judge puts Trump’s travel ban on indefinite hold

RSTV Bureau
Washington: President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.  Photo - AP/PTI

Washington: President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.
Photo – AP/PTI

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

US District Judge Derrick Watson said that the policy discriminates against Muslims and hurts the state’s tourist-dependent economy.

Hawaii argued that the order, which restricts travellers and refugees from six Muslim-majority countries, discriminated against Muslims in violation of the US Constitution.

The US District Judge Derrick Watson blocked the core provision of the revised executive order two weeks ago arguing that it violated Establishment Clause of the Constitution by disfavouring Muslims.

“The court concludes that, on the record before it, plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim,” Watson wrote in his order on Wednesday.

Watson’s earlier decision, issued on March 15, was only a limited freeze of the executive order through a temporary restraining order.

As a result, the plaintiffs asked the judge to convert that decision into a longer-term preliminary injunction and Watson agreed yesterday and the president’s 90-day ban on foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries and the 120-ban on all refugees entering the country are now blocked indefinitely unless any higher court changes Watson’s order or the state’s lawsuit is otherwise resolved.

President Trump’s travel ban order had sought to prevent people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. The order was issued as a means to check terrorism by preventing terrorists from entering the US.

The six Muslim-majority countries were Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Iraq was on the first list but was removed in the revised executive order.

One of the practical implications of Judge Watson’s decision is that the Justice Department may now immediately appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, should it choose to do so. But how long it will take for any appeals to be completed remains unclear, said a CNN report.

The reasoning in Watson’s decision largely follows his decision from two weeks ago, which used Supreme Court precedent to conclude that Donald Trump’s statements about Muslims during the presidential campaign speak to the constitutionality of the executive order.

Trump signed the new ban on March 6 in a bid to overcome legal problems with a January executive order that caused chaos at airports and sparked mass protests before a Washington judge stopped its enforcement in February.

An earlier version of Trump’s executive order, issued in late January, sparked confusion and protests, and was blocked by a judge in Seattle.

(With inputs from agencies)