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Federal Judge Puts an Indefinite Hold on Revised Travel Ban

— March 30, 2017

A federal judge in Hawaii granted the state’s request to continue a freeze on Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson played a critical role two weeks ago in halting the executive order from taking effect. Citing the President’s own words, Watson cast doubt on the claim that the order was intended solely to preserve national security. Hearkening back to conservative firebrand’s days on the campaign trail, the judge concluded that the intent of the travel ban was to prevent Muslims from entering the United States.

Watson’s initial decision earlier in March was only a temporary freeze on the oft-criticized executive order. Today’s ruling came after a group of plaintiffs, representing Hawaii and several other states, asked the judge to “convert that decision into a longer term preliminary injunction.”

Watson agreed Wednesday night.

The consequence of Watson’s injunction is that the temporary halt on the ban’s implementation has been extended indefinitely. Unless the Trump administration brings the case to an appeals court and argues its side successfully, no further action will be taken by the judicial system regarding the order.

“The court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has,” Watson wrote Wednesday evening.

“The court concludes that, on the record before it, Plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim.”

The plaintiffs and states arrayed against Trump’s executive order had vocally criticized the ban as potentially impinging on the Constitution’s First Amendment “establishment of religion” clause. Both in Watson’s decision and an opinion from the revocation of the first travel ban, the courts had suggested that revisiting Trump campaign-trail rhetoric was not unwarranted.

The judiciary has now drawn a line directly from Donald Trump’s old promises to keep Muslims out to his recent series of travel bans.

Protesters hold signs and crowd the sidewalk outside of Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
People protesting Donald Trump’s first travel ban stand outside the International Arrivals hall at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in January; image courtesy of the USA Today Network via Detroit Free Press

Although language was removed from the second incarnation of the ban, such as a professed favoritism for accepting Christian refugees, it still failed to pass muster and is regarded by members of the judiciary such as Watson as being potentially biased. The changes made by Trump since January included taking Iraq off the list of restricted countries, as well as making concessions for U.S. permanent residents and green card holders from the six remaining nations.

Criticism of the executive orders has been widespread. On the eve of Trump’s first ban, protestors turned out en masse at international airports and in ethnically-mixed neighborhoods across the country.

The President did not take either of his failures in stride.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Nashville two weeks ago, Donald Trump angrily berated the judiciary, citing legal doctrine and the powers of the executive branch.

“We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take it as far as we need to, right up to the Supreme Court,” he said, garnering applause and cheers from the audience.

Soon afterward, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Clifton, who upheld the original ban’s revocation, said at a conference, “It’s easy to blame the referee when you don’t like the result.”

He went on to say that playing the blame-game over disappointing results is corrosive to the justice system.

President Trump and the Department of Justice will have to appeal again to the 9th Circuit Court if they wish to challenge the now-indefinite injunction.


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Federal judge in Hawaii extends ruling halting travel ban indefinitely

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