President Donald Trump's revised immigration order is so "blatantly discriminatory" that it seems designed to divide people into a "superior race," Hawaii's attorney general alleged Thursday.
Trump's revised executive order, which restricts entry by nationals from six mostly Muslim countries and is scheduled to take effect March 16, includes nicer, "neutral" language, but it remains at its core a "Muslim ban," Attorney General Doug Chin said at a news conference in Honolulu on Thursday.
Chin said that would set the country back by 75 years, when Japanese-American U.S. citizens were placed in internment camps during World War II.
As evidence, Chin cited remarks that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made last week at a gathering of the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington, D.C., where he linked rising violent crime to illegal immigration.
"People who come here unlawfully and commit crimes, they are going to be out of here," Sessions said last week. "The law says they have to be deported."
Chin, who attended the gathering, told reporters that he interpreted Sessions as saying that crime is rising — "I didn't know if that was true, but he said crime is on the uprise" — and that it's being committed by people who are in the country illegally. He said Sessions appeared to be arguing that "if we remove people who are unlawfully in this country, then crime will go down."
Sessions, he said, almost appeared to be advocating for "a system where there are certain 'races' that are going to be presumptively in a second-class type of environment, and there will be a 'superior race' that is running everything."
Trump's original executive order, which the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals soon put on hold, barred entry for 90 days for nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Iraq was dropped from the list of countries in the revised order.
Hawaii this week became the first state to challenge the new order in court. A hearing is scheduled in U.S. District Court in Honolulu next Wednesday.
Chin said Thursday that the language of the new order can't wipe out past statements made by Trump and members of his administration — statements that include those made by Sessions last week and that Chin said would be noted in Hawaii's court arguments.
"This is the first time that a president has made such a broad, sweeping kind of executive order that bans people purely based upon their nationality," he said.
"In other words, it's saying if you're from one of these six countries, you are presumptively a terrorist. To us, that's bringing us back to a time before I was even born, a time that our prior generation lived under, that's a dark chapter that I don't believe we should repeat."
The Trump administration has yet to respond. But an administration official, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about pending litigation, said Thursday night that Chin was not only wrong but was actually being "offensive."
Noting that the revised order makes no mention of Islam or any other religion, the official said, "the vast majority of majority-Muslim counties are not included — including the nations with the world's largest Muslim populations: Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nigeria."
Moreover, the official said, "the criteria for selection [were] based on a determination made by the previous administration and Congress that these were counties that were unable or unwilling to provide enough data on their nationals in order to properly screen them before entry into the U.S. ...
"We're not assuming everyone is a terrorist," the official said. "We're just not going to assume that everyone isn't."
Chin is a Democrat, but he denied Thursday that he was taking the lead in opposing the revised order to advance a political position.
"I don't see this as a 'Democrat' thing or an agenda thing," he said. "I see it as a racist thing."