Hawaii cleared to be first state to sue over new travel ban
The Japan Times AP Mar 9, 2017
Protesters wearing Statue of Liberty outfits in Sydney on Thursday rally against U.S. President Donald Trump's new executive order temporarily banning the entry of refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. | REUTERS
HONOLULU/WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Honolulu said Wednesday that Hawaii can move forward with filing what would be the first lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson granted the state’s request to continue with the case and set a hearing for March 15 — the day before Trump’s order is due to go into effect. It bars new visas for people from the six predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program.
Officials in heavily Democratic Hawaii previously sued to stop Trump’s initial ban but that suit was placed on hold amid legal challenges around the country.
A day after Trump’s administration announced its new executive order, attorneys for the state filed their proposed revision in federal court Tuesday night, along with a motion asking that it be allowed to proceed.
Watson approved that motion and said the state will file the final lawsuit later Wednesday. The Hawaii attorney general’s office did not provide further details on timing but has said the ban will harm Hawaii’s Muslim population, tourism and foreign students.
The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The state will argue at the March 15 hearing that the judge should impose a temporary restraining order preventing the ban from taking effect until the lawsuit has been resolved.
Hawaii’s complaint says it is suing to protect its residents, businesses and schools, as well as its “sovereignty against illegal actions of President Donald J. Trump and the federal government.”
Trump gave 10 days’ notice before the order goes into effect on March 16. The new ban temporarily bars new visas for citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries — one fewer than the original, with Iraq removed from the list. It does not apply to travelers who already have visas.
Like the first order, it suspends the U.S. refugee program for four months and cuts the number of refugees the country is willing to take in from 110,000 to 50,000.
The order says people from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen “warrant additional scrutiny in connection with our immigration policies because the conditions in these countries present heightened threats.”
Intelligence analysts at the Department of Homeland Security have questioned that rationale, concluding that citizenship is an “unlikely indicator” of terrorist ties.
Top Republicans welcomed the changes. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the order “advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland.”
The response abroad was more critical.
The head of the U.N. refugee agency said it may compound the anguish of those fleeing strife or famine.
Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, acknowledged his nation’s security troubles but said Somalis “have contributed to the U.S. economy and the U.S. society … and we have to talk about what the Somali people have contributed rather than a few people who may cause a problem.”
Imam Ismail Elshikh of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, a plaintiff in the state’s challenge, says the ban will keep his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting.
Trump’s “executive order inflicts a grave injury on Muslims in Hawaii, including Dr. Elshikh, his family, and members of his mosque,” Hawaii’s complaint says.
A federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the initial ban after Washington state and Minnesota sued. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the order.
While Hawaii is the first to sue to stop the revised ban, the restraining order is still in place and could apply to the new one, too, said Peter Lavalee, a spokesman for the Washington attorney general’s office.
University of Richmond Law School professor Carl Tobias said Hawaii’s complaint seemed in many ways similar to Washington’s successful lawsuit, but whether it would prompt a similar result was tough to say.
He said he expects the judge, an appointee of President Barack Obama who was a longtime prosecutor, to be receptive to “at least some of it.”
Given that the new executive order spells out more of a national security rationale than the old one and allows for some travelers from the six nations to be admitted on a case-by-case basis, it will be harder to show that the new order is intended to discriminate against Muslims, Tobias said.
“The administration’s cleaned it up, but whether they have cleaned it up enough I don’t know,” he said. “It may be harder to convince a judge there’s religious animus here.”
Tobias also said it is good that Hawaii’s lawsuit includes an individual plaintiff, considering that some legal scholars have questioned whether the states themselves have standing to challenge the ban.
“This new executive order is nothing more than Muslim ban 2.0,” Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said in a statement Monday. “Under the pretense of national security, it still targets immigrants and refugees.”