HONOLULU — A U.S. federal judge has extended his suspension of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry to people from six majority-Muslim countries and halting refugee admissions.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson had temporarily prohibited the government from enforcing the order in a March 15 decision. His new ruling Wednesday went further, placing a preliminary injunction against Trump’s order at the request of the state of Hawaii, which applies nationwide.
Watson wrote that the circumstances that led to his initial decision have not changed, including Hawaii’s argument that remarks by Trump and his associates have singled out Muslims. The judge said the state has sufficiently established a likelihood it would succeed in challenging the ban on the grounds it violates a constitutional clause that requires government actions to have a primarily secular purpose.
Muslim ban to extreme vetting
Trump’s campaign for president once included a call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, a policy that was later changed to advocating “extreme vetting” for people from countries with a link to terrorism.
The Trump administration has insisted the executive order is not a Muslim ban, and the president has argued the executive order is necessary to protect national security. It includes barring the issuance of new visas to people from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan for 90 days, and suspending the refugee program for 120 days. During those periods, reviews of vetting procedures and how to strengthen the screenings are supposed to take place.
Watson said in his order that the government has argued the courts should ignore the context surrounding the order.
“The court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has,” Watson wrote.
The government also argued that any injunction should apply only to the visa ban and not affect suspending refugee admissions, but the judge said, “It makes little sense to do so.”
President vows to fight challenges
Trump has vowed to continue fighting legal challenges to his order, taking them up to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Hawaii’s Department of the Attorney General expressed confidence that higher courts will continue to side with its position.
“While we understand that the president may appeal, we believe the court’s well-reasoned decision will be affirmed,” it said on Twitter.
The travel ban is also being challenged in a federal case originating from the state of Maryland. That case is only limited to the suspension of visas to the six countries, and a District Court judge issued a similar prohibition against the government enforcing it.
But the Justice Department has appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has scheduled arguments for May 8.
A group of attorneys general from 12 states have filed briefs with the 4th Circuit in support of Trump’s executive order, arguing it does not amount to a Muslim ban. The states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.
An appeal of the Hawaii case would go to a different court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.