A federal judge in Hawaii has placed a nationwide block on President Trump’s revised travel order, delivering a major blow to the president’s policy just hours before it was set to go into effect.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, a President Obama appointee, ruled after a hearing on Wednesday that the plaintiffs, the state of Hawaii and a Muslim leader, showed a “strong” likelihood to succeed in their lawsuit against the ban. They argue that the policy violates the Establishment Clause and proved that “irreparable harm” is likely if temporary relief is not granted.
A major crux of Hawaii’s argument is that Trump’s intent behind the executive order is to institute a “Muslim ban,” which they say would be a form of religious discrimination.
“It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7 percent to 99.8 percent,” he wrote. “It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not.”
The plaintiffs pointed to comments made by Trump’s own adviser Stephen Miller to argue that both versions of the travel ban are “fundamentally” similar and would have the same impact.
“Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed,” Miller told Fox News last month. “But in terms of protecting the country, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.”
The administration urged the court not to read into “secret motives” or the “veiled psyche” of policymakers, and said there is a difference between statements made by a candidate and an elected official.
But Watson vehemently pushed back, saying there is nothing “‘secret’ about the Executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the Executive Order.”
He pointed to Trump’s comments on the campaign trail, top ally Rudy Giuliani’s explanation of the order and a press release titled “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
“Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, ‘secondary to a religious objective’ of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims,” Watson stated.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that it “strongly disagrees” with the ruling, calling it “flawed both in reasoning and in scope.”
“The President’s Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation’s security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” the DOJ said.