Hawaii Says Trump's Own Words Make Case for Travel Ban Halt

  • Judge asked to extend order barring enforcement of policy
  • President described revised travel limits as ‘watered-down’

Hawaii’s attorney general is seeking to extend a temporary restraining order blocking Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, citing the president’s own words as evidence that the new policy is merely a “subterfuge.”

“President Trump himself has confirmed that any changes made between the first order and the second were pretextual,” the state said Tuesday in a Honolulu federal court filing. “He described the second order as merely a ‘watered down version of the first,’ and reiterated his sentiments that it is ‘hard’ to assimilate Muslims in the U.S.”

Any “reasonable, objective observer” hearing or reading these remarks would conclude that the national security findings in the revised order were simply a smokescreen for the same plan of discrimination so readily apparent in the first draft, the state said, referring to Trump’s speech in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday hours after he lost the first round in the case.

Trump’s Words May Haunt Him as Travel Ban Appeal Promised

The Hawaii case is one of several that have so far stopped Trump’s plans to limit immigration from a handful of mostly Muslim nations. The U.S. Justice Department, which argues the restrictions fall within the president’s authority in matters of immigration and national security, is scheduled to respond to the state’s request for a preliminary injunction on Friday, with the judge weighing arguments in court on March 29.

A Maryland federal judge is considering a request to extend his court order barring restrictions on visa approvals to address Trump’s planned curbs on refugee programs. A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, is considering a third request to block Trump’s revised ban affecting Syria, Iran, Yemen and three other countries. The Seattle federal judge who blocked Trump’s first executive order has said, given the Hawaii ruling, that he’ll hold off on issuing an order on the new ban for the time being.

Airports, Courtrooms

The president issued his revised order in hopes of fixing practical and legal problems with the original that resulted in chaos and protests at U.S. airports and ended in the courtroom setbacks. Both the Maryland and Hawaii judges pointed to remarks by Trump and his advisers suggesting the real purpose behind the order was anti-Muslim bias.

The Justice Department has said it will appeal the Maryland decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, with the Hawaii ruling likely to wind up in the federal appellate court in San Francisco. A Trump victory in the Virginia case would make an already likely U.S. Supreme Court battle even more so.

Hawaii said in its filing Tuesday that the judge’s conclusions that prompted him to issue the initial restraining order warrant the granting of a longer-lasting injunction. The state argues it’s still likely to ultimately win on the merits of its constitutional challenge and that it faces economic harm from the travel ban.

The state reiterated its position that the revised order attempts to "sanitize" the previous travel ban’s refugee provision, by excluding an explicit carve-out for religious minorities that was seen as benefiting Christians over Muslims. That change doesn’t eliminate the religious animus that motivated the refugee provisions of the original order, the state said.

The Hawaii case is State of Hawaii v. Trump, 17-cv-00050, U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii (Honolulu). The Virginia case is Sarsour v. Trump, 17-cv-00120, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria). The Maryland case is International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, 17-00361, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).

— With assistance by Erik Larson, and Andrew M Harris

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