Federal Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii blocks Trump’s new executive order on travel ban

The US Judge, Derrick Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu, Hawaii issued a nationwide order on 14 March 2017 blocking US President Donald Trump’s new travel ban order on six Muslim-majority nations. The block came hours before the ban was supposed to come into effect.

Trump’s directive, had it been effective, would have stopped travel to the US from six Muslim-majority nations including Yemen, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Libya for 90 days and imposed a 120-day ban on refugees. The new order that excludes Iraq from the banned list unlike before has been criticised to be a thinly veiled version of the earlier order.

The US district judge Derrick Watson in a 43-page ruling stated that a reasonable and objective observer would view the new order as one issued with the purpose of disfavouring a particular religion in spite of the stated religiously neutral purpose. The judge ruled that the state of Hawaii and petitioner Ismail Elshikh had reasonable grounds to challenge the order as religious discrimination and concluded that allowing the travel restrictions to go into effect as scheduled could have caused them irreparable harm.

Speaking only in respect to Elshikh, who is the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii and an American citizen who has been struggling to get a visa for his Syrian mother-in-law to enter the United States, the judge stated that the travel regulations would harm him on the basis of his religion. Besides this, several other cases challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s order were filed in the courts of Washington State and Maryland.

This is the second major setback for Trump, as his first attempt in implementing the travel ban that he proposed critical for national security was halted by a federal court in Seattle. Trump decried the ruling as an unprecedented judicial overreach and pledged to take the issue to the Supreme Court if necessary. He also stated that he might reissue the initial version of the order.

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