U.S. judge blocks second Trump travel ban

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Federal Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii ruled yesterday that President Donald Trump's second travel ban, which was scheduled to begin today, may not go into effect on the grounds that it would cause "irreparable harm" to individuals from specific groups and that it could be subject to reasonable challenge on the basis of religious discrimination. This was followed late last night by a similar ruling from Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland. Residents of Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Syria, and Yemen who have legal visas may still enter the United States as normal.

President Trump has called this "unprecedented judicial overreach" and pledged to challenge these rulings and defend the travel bans, even to the point of a Supreme Court case.

The ban differed from President Trump's first travel ban, which was also blocked by federal judges, in that its ban on Syrian refugees entering the U.S. is no longer indefinite, and it barred residents of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. instead of seven, omitting Iraq. It specifically omitted language about making exceptions for religious minorities. Still, Judge Watson concluded that a reasonable and disinterested person would be likely to conclude that the order stems from a "purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose."

As evidence of this, Judge Watson pointed to Imam Ismail Elshikh, an American citizen and resident of Hawaii whose mother-in-law was attempting to get a visa to come to the U.S. from Syria.

Lawsuits against the travel ban were also filed by the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project in Washington and by the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland. The Washington case is being heard by District Judge James Robart, whose order blocked the first travel ban. Arguments against the travel ban include the idea that it harms business, such as Seattle tech companies, that hire highly trained immigrants. Lyft, Airbnb, and TripAdvisor joined the Hawaii case as plaintiffs. The states of Oregon, California, New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts are also involved in challenging the ban. The suits make extensive use of President Trump's campaign statements, in which he promised voters he would keep Muslims out of the country. After the first executive order was struck down, he also spoke vehemently about the judicial system.

Judge Watson was appointed to his position by former president Barack Obama.

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