U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii on March 15, 2017, blocked enforcement of key provisions of President Trump’s revised executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The order banned most people from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
The executive order, which was to take effect March 16, 2017, would ban people from six predominantly Muslim countries—Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Libya—from obtaining visas for up to 90 days. It also would suspend the U.S. refugee program for 120 days.
The revised ban was issued in place of a more expansive travel ban announced in January that was stopped by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals via a temporary restraining order. The latest executive order eliminated language from the original travel ban that gave preference to religious minorities. The new version also exempted certain classes of people from the ban, such as green card holders and those with already valid visas.
Hours before the revised ban was to go into effect, Watson issued a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of sections 2 and 6 of the executive order, which pertain to the issuance of visas and the halt to refugee admissions. Watson held that the second ban violates the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, in that it bans entry of people of a particular religion. He cited Trump’s campaign rhetoric against Muslims as evidence of the ban’s discriminatory intent.
The judge’s order held that those who would be affected by the ban, travelers and students for example, contribute significantly to Hawaii’s economy. He said that an objective observer “would conclude that the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion,” and blocked the executive order nationwide. The following day, U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Maryland also issued a nationwide temporary restraining order blocking the executive order, citing Trump’s past statements. That ruling was more limited in scope in that it only pertains to the section of the ban that would prevent issuance of visas.
The Department of Justice, defenders of the ban and the ban’s opponents, will submit additional briefs to support their arguments pertaining to a permanent stay before the district courts in Maryland and Hawaii.
For now, the travel ban is not in effect. Based on these decisions, the Department of State will presumably continue to issue visas to refugees and people from the six countries and the Department of Homeland Security will allow their entry into the United States.