Hawaii becomes first US state to sue over Donald Trump’s revised travel ban

Attorney General Douglas Chin

Hawaii has become the first US state to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, saying the order will harm its Muslim population, tourism and foreign students.

Lawyers for the state filed the lawsuit against the US government in federal court in Honolulu on Wednesday.

The state had previously sued over Mr Trump’s initial travel ban, but that lawsuit was put on hold while other cases played out across the country.

The revised executive order, which comes into effect on March 16, bars new visas for people from six predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily shuts down the US refugee programme.

It does not apply to travellers who already have visas.

“Hawaii is special in that it has always been non-discriminatory in both its history and constitution,” Attorney General Douglas Chin said.

“Twenty percent of the people are foreign-born, 100,000 are non-citizens and 20% of the labour force is foreign-born.”

Separate news conferences were planned on Thursday by Mr Chin in Honolulu and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in Seattle to discuss lawsuits filed against the travel bans.

Washington state and Minnesota challenged the initial travel ban from the administration.

Mr Chin, who noted the state has budgeted about 150,000 US dollars for an outside law firm to help with the lawsuit, said people in Hawaii find the idea of a travel ban based on nationality distasteful because they remember when Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during the Second World War.

Hawaii was the site of one of the camps.

People in Hawaii know that the fear of newcomers can lead to bad policy, Mr Chin said.

The move came after a federal judge in Honolulu said earlier on Wednesday that Hawaii can move forward with the lawsuit.

US district judge Derrick Watson granted the state’s request to continue with the case and set a hearing for March 15 – the day before Mr Trump’s order is due to come into effect.

The US 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”.

The order affects people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

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.

Mr 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 US 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 former president Barack Obama who was a long-time 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 travellers 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, Mr 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.”

Mr Tobias also said the fact that Hawaii’s lawsuit includes an individual plaintiff could be significant because some legal scholars have questioned whether the states themselves have standing to challenge the ban.

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