A Federal judge in Hawaii has blocked President Donald Trump's new travel ban, hours before it was to come into effect by midnight on Thursday. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson declared that "a reasonable, objective observer - enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance - would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion."
"The illogic of the Government's contentions is palpable," Watson wrote. "The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed."
Hawaii argued that the new order will harm its Muslim population, tourism and foreign students. Ismail Elshikh, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the ban will prevent his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting.
Speaking at a rally in Nashville, Trump called his revised executive order a "watered-down version" of his first.
"I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place," Trump said.
He called the judge's block "unprecedented judicial overreach" and said he will take the case "as far as it needs to go," including to the US Supreme Court.
Watson's decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by Hawaii. Lawyers for the state alleged that the new entry ban, much like the old, violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it was essentially a Muslim ban, hurt the ability of state businesses and universities to recruit top talent, and damaged the state's robust tourism industry.
Watson was one of three federal judges to hear arguments Wednesday about the ban, though he was the first to issue an opinion. Federal judges in Washington state and Maryland said they would issue opinions soon.
However, Justice Department lawyers argued that Trump was well within his authority to impose the ban, which was necessary for national security, and that those challenging it had raised only speculative harms. "They bear the burden of showing irreparable harm . . . and there is no harm at all," said the acting U.S. solicitor general, Jeffrey Wall, who argued on behalf of the government in Greenbelt, Md., in the morning and by phone in Hawaii in the afternoon.
Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller has said the revised order was designed to have "the same basic policy outcome" as the first. The new version of the ban affects fewer people than the initial ban. It applies only to new visas from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. It does not apply to travellers who already have visas, or to green-card holders. Iraq, included in the first ban, was excluded.