Trump Fails to Lift Court Block on Muslim-Entry Ban

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks to reporters after a hearing on extending the block of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban. (Nicholas Fillmore/CNS)

HONOLULU (CN) – A federal judge wasted little time Wednesday in extending his ruling against the president’s efforts to keep Syrian refugees and travelers from certain Muslim countries from entering the United States.

U.S. District Judge Derek Watson handed down the injunction late Wednesday before the temporary restraining order he granted on March 16 could expire.

At a hearing earlier Wednesday, an assistant to the acting U.S. solicitor general pushed to have Watson have the injunction limited only to Section 2(c) of President Donald Trump’s executive order.

Watson declined. “It makes little sense to do so,” his 24-page opinion states. “That is because the entirety of the executive order runs afoul of the establishment clause.”

Section 2(c) is the provision that suspends entry into the United States by nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin told the judge at Wednesday’s hearing that the revised travel ban barely attempts to “sanitize” the blatant discrimination that doomed its precursor in the courts.

Despite the revised ban’s neutral words, which make no overt religious references, “it’s as if there’s a flashing neon sign behind them saying, ‘Muslim ban, Muslim ban,’” Chin said.

Watson agreed, citing precedent about using “common sense” where there is public data about a religious objective permeating the government’s action.

Back when he issued the temporary restraining order, Watson found that that the executive order failed to satisfy the establishment clause benchmark set in Lemon v. Kurtzman. Nothing has changed since then, the judge added.

“As no new evidence contradicting the purpose identified by the court has been submitted by the parties since the issuance of the March 15, 2017, TRO, there is no reason to disturb the court’s prior determination,” he wrote.

Hawaii has meanwhile produced evidence that Trump’s order hampers efforts by the University of Hawaii to recruit students and faculty, as well as harm to the tourist industry.

The state’s co-plaintiff, Ismail Elshikh, meanwhile cited injury to himself, his community and his mosque. Elshikh says his mother-in-law, a Syrian national living in Syria, has been prevented from visiting the familt in Hawaii because of Trump’s executive order.

Watson acknowledged the country’s national security interests, and the deference owed to the president on policy and defense matters, but he said “the balance of equities and public interest weigh in favor of maintaining the status quo.”

The judge’s order blocks Trump from enforcing Sections 2 and 6 of the executive order across the nation, pending further order from the court, and until the case is fully decided on its merits.

In a press briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Justice Department is reviewing Watson’s ruling and considering how to defend Trump’s order.

“This ruling is just the latest step that will allow the administration to appeal,” Spicer said. “Just a week ago, the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia upheld the president’s order on the merits. The White House firmly believes this order is lawful and necessary, and will ultimately be allowed to move forward.”

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