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Hawaii Judge Extends Order Blocking Trump 'Travel Ban'

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson agreed to turn his original temporary restraining order blocking Trump’s revised executive order on immigration into a longer lasting preliminary injunction.
President Donald Trump at the White House on March 22.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images, file

A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday extended his previous ruling blocking President Donald Trump’s so-called "travel ban" that would have restricted entry to the United States by refugees and people from some predominantly Muslim countries.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson granted a motion by the state to turn his temporary restraining order blocking Trump’s revised executive order into a preliminary injunction. The move extends the ban on enforcement while the case moves forward.

The government also sought to have the judge limit the injunction to just the issue of visas from six predominantly Muslim nations, and not on a 120-day hold on refugees, but the judge declined to do so and that part of Trump’s order remains blocked.

Trump's executive orders restricting entry to the United States of nationals from several predominantly Muslim countries has been criticized as effectively a "Muslim ban," something Trump has denied.

Trump has said the orders were necessary to protect Americans from terrorism and campaigned on a pledge to institute "extreme vetting" of foreigners seeking to enter the country.

"We do not fault President Trump for being politically incorrect. We fault him for being constitutionally incorrect," Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said in his opening arguments to the court Wednesday, according to NBC affiliate Hawaii News Now.

Watson, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, on March 15 issued a temporary restraining order that blocked implementation of Trump’s revised executive order, which the president issued after a federal judge in Washington blocked his first order and after an appeals court refused to reinstate it.

The new order lowered the named nations from seven to six — Iraq was dropped from the list — and it does not explicitly apply to current lawful permanent residents and green card holders, among other changes.

Both orders also would have put on hold admissions to the United States of refugees for 120 days. The first order indefinitely suspended admission of Syrian refugees, but that was dropped in the revised order.

In court Wednesday, Department of Justice attorney Chad Readler argued Hawaii has only made generalized concerns about effects to students and tourism. He said suspending the refugee program has no impact on Hawaii.

But Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said language in the revised ban is like a "neon sign flashing 'Muslim Ban, Muslim Ban.'" And Chin said no one in the government has bothered to turn it off.

A separate ruling in Maryland blocked enforcement of Trump’s order that affected visas, but that narrower ruling did not affect the restrictions on refugees.

A Trump administration official said Thursday, "The Department of Justice is reviewing the ruling and considering the best way to defend the President's lawful and necessary order."

Trump reacted to Watson’s March 15 restraining order by calling the ruling "an unprecedented judicial overreach."

Hawaii's motion to convert the temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction quoted the president, who called it a "watered down version" of the first order, in arguing that the two orders had the same intent.

Wednesday’s ruling left in place the previous decision to block the key parts of Trump’s executive order. The human rights group Amnesty International Wednesday night characterized it as another defeat for the controversial presidential action.

"The courts have once again clearly rejected the Muslim ban. Like the previous travel ban, the new order is indefensibly discriminatory," Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. "President Trump must abandon this failed agenda and immediately revoke the ban," she said.