A judge in Hawaii has blocked the latest version of the Trump administration travel ban just hours before it was set to take effect. US District Judge Derrick Watson on Tuesday granted Hawaii’s request to temporarily block the government from enforcing the policy.
The Trump administration in September announced the restrictions affecting citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen – and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. Hawaii argues the updated ban is a continuation of President Donald Trump’s “promise to exclude Muslims from the United States”.
Other courts are considering challenges to the policy. In Maryland, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are seeking to block the visa and entry restrictions in the president’s latest proclamation.
Washington state, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, New York and Maryland have challenged the policy before US District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who struck down Mr Trump’s initial ban in January.
That policy led to chaos and confusion at airports nationwide and triggered several lawsuits, including one from Hawaii. When Mr Trump revised the ban, state Attorney General Doug Chin changed the lawsuit to challenge that version.
In March, Judge Watson agreed with Hawaii that it amounted to discrimination based on nationality and religion. A subsequent US Supreme Court ruling allowed the administration to partially reinstate that 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees.
But it said the policy did not apply to refugees and travellers with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the US. Hawaii then successfully challenged the government’s definition of which family members would be allowed into the country.
Judge Watson ordered the government not to enforce the ban on close relatives such as grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts. The judge’s order on Tuesday prevents acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from implementing the latest travel ban.
Judge Watson said he would set an expedited hearing to determine whether the temporary restraining order should be extended. He found Trump’s executive order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor”.
The judge, appointed by former President Barack Obama, said the new restrictions ignore a federal appeals court ruling that found Mr Trump’s previous ban exceeds the scope of his authority.
The latest version “plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the 9th Circuit has found antithetical to … the founding principles of this nation,” the judge wrote.
The government has said the new policy was based on an objective assessment of each country’s security situation and willingness to share information with the US.