Trump Travel Ban Ruling Promised Before Law Takes Effect Tonight

  • Honolulu federal judge weighs whether to block Trump policy
  • Maryland, Seattle judges also considering immigration order

A Hawaii federal judge asked questions of both sides in the fight over President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban and said he would issue a ruling whether to block the new immigration policy before it takes effect at midnight in Washington.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu conducted the second of three scheduled court hearings Wednesday on whether to block Trump’s revised executive order temporarily barring new immigrants and refugees from six mostly Muslim nations. A hearing earlier Wednesday in Maryland was also inconclusive and the U.S. Justice Department is scheduled for another showdown with immigrant-rights groups in Seattle before the same judge who blocked Trump’s original Jan. 27 executive order from being enforced nationwide.

The court proceedings are the latest chapters in a bitter, high-stakes battle between Trump and his supporters and an array of critics, including Democratic state attorneys general, advocacy groups and technology companies, over the power of the president to dictate immigration policy.

The new directive, signed on March 6, is narrower and was written to avoid some of the legal pitfalls that doomed its predecessor: Travelers with valid visas and permanent residents with green cards are exempted, and some language seen as favoring Christians over Muslims has been eliminated.

Lawyers for Hawaii argued that the revised ban still runs afoul of the Constitution, saying that it discriminates regarding visas based on nationality and religion.

"If that isn’t discrimination based on nationality, I don’t know what is," said Neal Katyal, a lawyer for the state.

Watson said he wasn’t convinced the order itself has religious connotations. He also asked why he couldn’t consider a federal law to mean that the president has “unfettered discretion” to determine immigration policy.

The Justice Department argued that Hawaii can’t claim it’s harmed so it doesn’t have standing to bring the case.

“The order doesn’t require Hawaii to do anything or refrain from doing anything,” said Jeffrey Wall, the lawyer arguing the case for the administration.

— With assistance by Erik Larson, Dina Bass, and Andrew M Harris

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