Federal Judge In Hawaii Issues Order Blocking Trump's Travel Ban

Mar 15, 2017
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Donald Trump's proposed travel ban has been blocked by the courts again just hours before the ban was set to take effect. A federal judge in Hawaii has granted a temporary nationwide restraining order against the travel ban the president signed just last week. This marks the second defeat for President Trump's effort to halt the U.S. refugee program as well as travel from six majority Muslim countries.

The president spoke about the case at a rally today in Nashville, where he called the Hawaiian judge's ruling an unprecedented judicial overreach.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first order that was also blocked by another judge and should have never been blocked to start with.

CORNISH: Joining me now is NPR's Joel Rose. And Joel, this case essentially came out of Hawaii, right? What did the ruling say?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Right. This case was brought by the state of Hawaii and an imam who's the head of the only mosque on the island of Oahu. Lawyers for the state argued that the executive order discriminates against Muslims. They said basically that this is a Muslim ban like the one President Trump talked about during the campaign when he proposed a total shutdown of Muslims coming into the U.S. Hawaii also says that the travel ban would have hurt the state's economy, including its tourism industry.

Lawyers for the Department of Justice denied a religious basis for the travel ban. They say the second version of the executive order is substantially different from the one that was blocked by a federal judge last month. They say both orders were intended to protect national security. The Department of Justice says these six countries in the travel ban are either considered state sponsors of terror or have harbored terrorists and that it's perfectly lawful for the president to do what he did regardless of what he said during the campaign.

CORNISH: Now, this order was a revised version of the original travel restrictions. It was supposed to stand up to legal scrutiny. What happened this time around?

ROSE: Right. The Department of Justice said that the new executive order is narrower in several fundamental ways. They did not say it was watered-down. They said it was narrower in a few ways - one, that there are only six countries on the list, that Iraq is off, that green card holders, lawful permanent residents, are exempt. Syrian refugees are not banned indefinitely, only for 120 days like all other refugees - and that people can apply for a waiver on a case-by-case basis.

But none of that seemed to persuade federal judge Derrick Watson. He's a Hawaii native who was appointed to the bench by President Obama. He ruled that the state's challenge has a strong likelihood of success. He wrote, a reasonable, objective observer would conclude that the travel ban is intended to disfavor a particular religion, and he temporarily blocked two key parts of the order on travel from the six countries and on refugees.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, this isn't the only case that was working its way through the court, right?

ROSE: Right, there were four cases total in federal court today - one in Maryland brought by refugee resettlement agencies and actually two cases in Seattle - one led by the state of Washington, which is the case that led to the first travel ban being blocked, and a second case that was brought by citizens and green holders who argue that their family members wouldn't be able to get visas under the new travel ban. The judge in Seattle who heard both of those cases and the judge in Maryland are expected to rule soon, but we don't know exactly when.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Joel Rose. Joel, thanks so much.

ROSE: You're welcome, Audie.

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