Hawaii federal judge halted President Trump’s new executive order to ban travelers and suspend the admission of refugees from six Muslim countries.

The ruling was issued on Wednesday after U.S District Court Judge Derrick Watson heard arguments claiming that the ban discriminates people based on nationality and religious beliefs. The decision stopped the executive order, merely nine days after its release, and one day before it would begin to take effect.

A Syrian refugee in Lebanon. Image credit: Hassan Abdallah/Reuters.

A day after the executive order’s issue, the state of Hawaii filed a petition in court to block President Trump’s new ban. The state had also sued Trump’s first executive order to ban citizens from six Muslim countries. State lawyers told the court they wanted to resume litigation and ask for a temporary block on the new order.

The hearing was scheduled for March 15, and Judge Watson heard allegations that claimed the travel ban violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.  It essentially prohibits Muslims, affects the state’s ability to recruit talent for business and universities, as well as it causes damage to the tourism industry.

Travel-ban block

Hawaii’s lawyers focused on Dr. Ismail Elshikh’s case, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, whose mother-in-law is currently processing a visa application. Dr. Elshikh’s relative will not be allowed to enter the United States under the new travel ban.

“Dr. Elshikh certainly has standing in this case. He, along with all of the Muslim residents in Hawaii face higher hurdles to see family because of religious faith. It is not merely a harm to the Muslim residents of the state of Hawaii, but also is a harm to the United States as a whole and is against the First Amendment itself” said Colleen Roh Sinzdak, a lawyer for the state of Hawaii, at the hearing according to The Washington Post.

Watson was the second judge to hear arguments regarding the travel ban block. A federal judge in Maryland heard arguments on a morning hearing, and a judge in Washington –the same judge that suspended President Trump’s first ban travel- was set to hear arguments on the afternoon.

Acting U.S Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued on behalf of the government in the first two hearings, claiming that the president was well within his authority to impose the ban and that people opposing to it were causing speculative and irreparable harm.

The President’s new executive order will suspend the U.S refugee program for 120 days, stop the issuance of visas to people from six Muslim-majority countries, as well as reducing the number of refugees allowed to enter the country from 110,000 to 50,000.

The new ban gives travelers a ten days’ notice and eliminates Iraq as one of the banned Muslim-countries. It keeps Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. It also exempts green card and visa holders from the ban, something that the first executive order did not exempt.

Justice Department lawyers believe that the new executive order is substantially different from the first one, which left thousands of people stranded in airports across the world until a federal judge blocked it.

Syrian Refugees
Image credit: Petros Giannakouris/AP.

‘Protecting the Nation from foreign Terrorist Entry.’

The Trump administration urged the federal judges revising today’s hearings to restraint from blocking the order, as it was designed to prevent terrorists from entering the country.

U.S Solicitor General Wall stretched on the point that the plaintiffs –ranging from individuals up to refugee aid agencies- would not suffer any immediate harm from the executive order because it provides waivers. Wall also explained that the refugee-aid agencies wouldn’t suffer financially because they would have fewer refugees, which would lead to fewer expenses.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other lawyers believe otherwise. According to them, the potential damage is big, with refugees already in the U.S waiting to rejoin their families who are overseas enduring life-threatening while not being allowed to enter the country as refugees.

Also, some refugees who were expecting to travel to the U.S will no longer be able to do so on account of the shortening of refugees allowed into the country. Refugee aid organizations like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), explain that they would lose funding and probably face employee layoffs.

The executive order, available in The White House website is titled ‘Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.’ The Department of Homeland Security said on its website that the six banned countries had been banned because they pose national security risks associated with their instability and the prevalence of terrorist fighters in their territories.

Government lawyers have also alleged that refugees have proved to be national security threats, citing the case of a Somalian refugee that attempted to bomb a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Oregon. However, in that particular case, the refugee lived in the United States since he was a child, and there was no way to predict his crime. The FBI is currently investigating more than 300 refugees living in the United States for potential terrorist activities.

Source: The Washington Post