Second federal judge halts Donald Trump’s new attempt at travel ban

Harriet Alexander

President Donald Trump's travel ban was dealt another blow as a federal judge in Maryland became the second to temporarily block the 90-day ban on immigration for citizens of six countries.  

The Maryland judge blocked the ban on Thursday morning on the heels of Hawaiian federal judge Derrick Watson's decision to issue a temporary restraining order nationwide over the ban on Wednesday afternoon, hours before it was set to go into effect at one minute past midnight on Thursday. Mr Watson ruled the law unconstitutional. 

The rulings apply nationwide.

Mr Trump said the decision "makes us look weak" and was an example of "unprecedented judicial overreach".

"This is in the opinion of many an unprecedented judicial overreach," Mr Trump told a rally in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Lawyers for Hawaii argued the new travel ban, much like the old, violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it is essentially a Muslim ban, hurts the ability of state businesses and universities to recruit top talent and damages the state’s robust tourism industry.

They highlighted the case of a Muslim plaintiff, Ismail Elshikh, the imam of a Honolulu mosque. He argued that the ban would have prevented his mother-in-law, who lives in Syria, from visiting family in Hawaii.

Jeffrey Wall, the acting attorney general, attempted to defend the ban and insist that it was not directed against Muslims - insisting that past statements by Mr Trump and aides should not be considered when assessing whether the new order was motivated by “religious animus.”

But Judge Watson was not convinced, and ruled that the state of Hawaii had “met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of” its lawsuit.

His ruling means that Mr Trump's travel ban is once again thrown into chaos - a decision guaranteed to infuriate the president.

At a glance | Donald Trump’s immigration ban

Two other judges considering appeals against the ban - Judge Theodore Chuang, in Maryland, and Judge James Robart in Washington state - are yet to issue their verdicts.

At 12:01 am on Thursday, the president’s new executive order was due to suspend the US refugee programme for 120 days, halt for 90 days the issuance of new visas to people from six Muslim-majority countries and reduce the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000.

Douglas Chin, Hawaii's attorney general, said the filings asked the court to declare parts of the order contrary to the constitution and federal law Credit: AFP

Hawaii was the first state to announce that it would consider an appeal against the second ban, with attorneys for the state filing a new 40-page request the day after the second ban was unveiled, on March 6.

Mr Trump's first travel ban, issued on January 27 with immediate effect, unleashed chaos and was eventually blocked a week later.

In his appeal against the second travel ban, Douglas Chin, Hawaii's attorney general, said the filings asked the court to declare sections 2 and 6 of Mr Trump's executive order contrary to the constitution and federal law.

Timeline | Donald Trumps travel ban

"Sections 2 and 6 of the March 6, 2017 Executive Order violate the Immigration and Nationality Act by discriminating on the basis of nationality, ignoring and modifying the statutory criteria for determining terrorism-related inadmissibility, and exceeding the President's authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act," he said.

"The new executive order is resulting in the establishment of religion in the state of Hawaii contrary to its state constitution; it is inflicting immediate damage to Hawaii's economy, educational institutions, and tourism industry; and it is subjecting a portion of the state's citizens to second-class treatment and discrimination, while denying all Hawaii residents the benefits of an inclusive and pluralistic society," they argued in court filings.

"The executive order means that thousands of individuals across the United States and in Hawaii who have immediate family members living in the affected countries will now be unable to receive visits from those persons or to be reunited with them in the United States."

Mr Chin told CNN that he had filed the report because the executive order ran contrary to Hawaii's laws and traditions.

The island of Oahu, Hawaii Credit: Reuters

"The entire history and culture of Hawaii is based upon nondiscrimination either in its constitution as well as its laws," he said.

"Hawaii has 20 per cent foreign-born residents and 100,000 people who are not citizens as well as 20 per cent of our workforce that are not foreign born."

Neal Katyal, one of the lead attorneys for Hawaii and former acting US solicitor general, said the second travel ban was more legally sound than the first one.

But, in his view, the new travel ban still "suffers from the same constitutional and statutory defects."

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