A federal judge in Hawaii shut down President Trump’s new executive order that would temporarily barring the issuance of new visas to citizens of six-Muslim majority countries and also suspend the admission of new refugees. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson thereby froze the order across the country. Three federal judges in Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington, heard arguments by the federal government that the February 2 order effectively answered the concerns raised by Trump’s critics that his early executive order was inadmissible. Judge Watson was appointed by Barack Obama in 2013.
The hearing in Hawaii was in response to a lawsuit filed by the state. State lawyers alleged that the new executive order, and the old order, violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it essentially bans Muslim, damages the tourism, and allegedly harms businesses and universities seeking to recruit top talent.
The attorneys used as evidence the case of Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, whose mother-in-law’s application for an immigrant visa was still being processed. Under the new executive order, Elshikh feared that his mother-in-law would ultimately be banned from entering the United States.
“Dr. Elshikh certainly has standing in this case. He, along with all of the Muslim residents in Hawaii face higher hurdles to see family because of religious faith,” argued attorney Colleen Roh Sinzdak on Wednesday. “It is not merely a harm to the Muslim residents of the state of Hawaii, but also is a harm to the United State as a whole and is against the First Amendment itself.” Islam was not mentioned in either of the two executive orders signed by President Trump. Opponents have said that his statements during his political campaign that called for a moratorium on Muslim immigration is proof of the orders' intent.
Attorneys for the Justice Department argued that Trump is authorized to impose such a ban, arguing that the state had offered only speculation. “They bear the burden of showing irreparable harm ... and there is no harm at all,” said Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who argued for the federal government in Maryland and later via telephone in Hawaii.
The ACLU and lawyers for refugee aid organizations asked federal Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland to halt the entire order, saying that it discriminates against Muslims, who comprise the majority of refugees entering the US. “If you were trying to ban Muslims,” ACLU lawyer Omar C. Jadwat told Chuang, “banning refugees would be one compelling way to do it.”
Justice Department lawyers say the order is “substantially different” from Trump’s Jan. 27 travel ban, and urged Chuang not to halt the order, arguing that it seeks to forestall the admittance of terrorists into the country. It was Barack Obama who identified the six countries named in the order as having security threats. The government argued that it is concerned by radical Islamic terrorists.
The ACLU and other organizations say that the number of potentially harmed people is significant. Refugees already in the United States, they argue, would remain separated from family members living in dangerous conditions in foreign countries. Also, some refugees who had expected to enter the US during this fiscal year would not be allowed. HIAS, the nation’s oldest refugee resettlement organization, said it would suffer financially because of the ruling and would have to lay off employees because of the reduced refugee admissions and a resultant loss of funding. HIAS was once known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.