A federal judged blocked President Donald Trump’s new travel restrictions on six Muslim-majority nations, hours before the executive order was to take effect.
U.S. Judge Derrick Watson of the Hawaii federal district, appointed to the seat by former President Barack Obama, heard arguments on behalf of Hawaiian state government against the travel ban. He ruled early Wednesday evening.
“We are going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including right up to the Supreme Court.”
The 43-page ruling accused Trump of discriminating against Muslims, which Watson said was obvious to a “reasonable, objective observer” who was “enlightened” by the facts.
The ruling puts a temporary hold on Trump’s revised order.
“This is a big step in the direction of crippling the government’s ability to control immigration,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Krikorian said federal courts are headed in the direction of overriding the president’s ability to control immigration as allowed by federal statute. It’s long been a goal of immigration attorneys to make every immigration decision — every visa decision — appealable to the courts, Krikorian said.
The new travel restrictions would have frozen travel visas from six nations — Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Iran.
Iraq was on Trump’s first order, but the central government complied with Trump’s requests that they produce better documentation for travelers, according to Sean Spicer, White House press secretary.
The first executive order restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim nations became the Trump administration’s first major crisis, as critics lit into the White House, accusing the president of issuing a “Muslim ban.”
So on the second try, Trump and administration officials took a month, issuing a revised executive order. When it was unveiled on March 6, Trump made so sure to add heft to the announcement he didn’t have on Jan. 27: he added Cabinet secretaries to the event.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly all showed up to talk up the new and improved executive order. The order was even delayed.
But Judge Watson said one of the reasons for his decision was a television interview with Stephen Miller, an aide to Trump, on Feb. 21.
“You’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome,” Miller said. Oddly, Watson cited the remark. Watson also cited former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments on Fox News that Trump asked for advice on a “Muslim ban.”
Krikorian said Trump’s new order never had a chance with liberal judges.
“It’s not like tweaking the order was going to persuade [liberal judges],” said Krikorian. “They don’t like the idea of the president keeping people out of the United States … [Judges] are abusing their power … They are ignoring the law.”
Spicer has said repeatedly the U.S. code on Trump’s right to restrict incoming travelers or refugees.
The federal law actually reads, “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
Trump blasted the decision while at a Nashville, Tenn., rally on Wednesday. He called the decision “unprecedented judicial overreach.”
“The order they blocked was a watered-down version of first one, which should have never been blocked to start with,” Trump said. “We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We are going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including right up to the Supreme Court.”
The ruling likely is the last straw for Trump, who decided not to defend the first executive order all the way through the courts. This time, Trump seems likely to follow through on his promise of going to the high court possible.