Just a few hours before President Trump's revised executive order on travel from six Muslim-majority nations was to take effect, a federal judge in Hawaii has granted a temporary restraining order to block its implementation. Judges in three states heard arguments Wednesday morning regarding the revised order, issued on March 6 and set to take effect after midnight tonight, and US District Judge Derrick K. Watson appeared to agree with the three judges on the Ninth Circuit who earlier upheld an order from the State of Washington halting the President's first travel ban, at least with regard to the relevance of Trump's earlier statements of bias against Muslims in general.
As the New York Times reports, Judge Watson said in Wednesday's hearing, skeptical of the Justice Department's argument that the new order should be judged only on its face, "Are you saying we close our eyes to the sequence of statements [the administration made] before this?"
At issue with the restraining order, as with earlier arguments heard by the Ninth Circuit, is not necessarily the constitutional authority of the President to issue such travel restrictions, but whether the order as written unequally targets Muslims, and causes harms to schools and businesses that depend on the mobility of foreign nationals from the six nations named in the order Libya, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia.
The administration has argued that a 90-day pause is necessary to reassess the vetting procedures currently in place for all foreigners entering the US, especially from these six countries. But critics, including those in the State Department, say that vetting procedures are extremely thorough as they are.
As BuzzFeed explains, written rulings are also expected, possibly very soon, from US District Judge James Robart in Seattle and US District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland, both of whom also heard arguments in separate hearings today, but did not rule from the bench. Judge Watson did not rule from the bench either, but was the first to issue a ruling just before 4 p.m. Pacific Time, or 1 p.m. local time in Honolulu.
Separately, the State of Washington has filed a request with Judge Robart to enforce his prior injunction against the original executive order against this one as well.
Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued today that there are no religious distinctions made in the new executive order, which he said “directly, serially” addressed the concerns raised by the Ninth Circuit judges earlier specifically the new order makes clear that lawful permanent residents and current visa-holders will not be affected, and the special provision about Syrian refugees being banned indefinitely was removed.
Judge Watson however agreed with the case for a restraining order brought by the State of Hawaii, saying that the irreparable harms they cited including those to their state university were "nearly indistinguishable" from those in the earlier Washington injunction, noting that the University of Hawaii "currently has twenty-three graduate students, several permanent faculty members, and twenty-nine visiting faculty members from the six countries listed [in the order]."
The court also found a case for irreparable harm being done to the plaintiff the state enjoined with in the suit, Dr. Ismail Elshikh, PhD, Imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, whose mother-in-law is a Syrian national who has been prevented from visiting his family in Hawaii.
Protesters and volunteer lawyers were preparing to deal with the implementation of the ban beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday at multiple airports around the country.
The President has so far not reacted to the decision on Twitter, though he may do so on Fox News tonight as he'll be interviewed at 9 p.m. ET by Tucker Carlson.
Update: In a speech in Nashville the President referred to "the bad, sad news" of the ruling, calling it "in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach." He added, "We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take this as far as we need to, right up to the Supreme Court."
Previously: Ninth Circuit Declines To Delay Trump Travel Ban Appeal