Hours before President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban was set to go into effect, a federal court judge in Hawaii on Wednesday temporarily blocked the measure, which set entry restrictions on six Muslim majority nations, from moving forward.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson’s decision drew fiery condemnation from Trump who told supporters at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, “this ruling makes us look weak.”
“We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including ... the Supreme Court,” Trump said of the decision reached about an hour earlier.
The president’s revised travel order, signed March 3, was initially set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and would have stopped the issuance of new visas and green cards to travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also cut the number of refugees admitted into the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000.
Watson temporarily halted the new ban’s implementation, after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by attorneys for the state of Hawaii seeking to block the revised travel restrictions.
In a 43-page written opinion Watson, an Obama administration appointee, wrote that “a reasonable, objective observer ... would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”
Lawyers for Hawaii argued the revised order was designed to discriminate against Muslims, and cited Trump’s remarks on the campaign trail calling for a Muslim ban to make their case.
Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, representing the Trump administration, argued the order was created to bolster national security and said “there is no harm at all,” caused by the new travel order.
The case was one of three federal lawsuits aimed at blocking the travel order that came before federal judges on Wednesday. A case in Maryland, filed by a coalition of refugee assistance groups sought to block the new order by arguing it continued to unfairly target Muslims, and in Washington, attorneys for an immigration advocacy group asked a federal court judge who blocked Trump’s first travel order to apply his same decision to the new order.
Watson’s decision delivered another setback for Trump who sought to remedy some of the concerns that led to the first travel ban being blocked.
Trump’s revised order exempted travelers who already have green cards and visas, dropped Iraq from the list of banned countries, and eliminated a provision that gave preferential treatment to Christians and other religious minority groups from the Muslim-majority nations.
The first travel ban’s immediate execution on Jan. 27 generated chaos in airports across the country, as several passengers from impacted nations, including green card holders, arrived and were denied entry by U.S. Customs agents.
In New York, a coalition of immigration attorneys who provided legal representation to travelers at Kennedy Airport after the first travel order said Wednesday they’re prepared to mobilize attorneys to JFK again should Trump succeed in appealing Watson’s decision.
“We continue to have attorneys, volunteers, collaborators on standby in case future activation needed,” said Yasmine Farhang, lead immigration attorney for Make the Road New York.