Hawaii files suit challenging Trump’s new travel executive order

HONOLULU — A federal judge in Hawaii has agreed to hear the first legal challenge to President Donald Trump’s new travel ban on March 15 — just hours before it is slated to go into effect.

Attorneys for the state filed a new 40-page request just before midnight on Tuesday, asking a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of the new executive order.

Trump signed a new executive order Monday banning foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and banning all refugees for 120 days.

In a statement, Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said the filings ask the court to declare sections 2 and 6 of Trump’s executive order contrary to the constitution and federal law.

“Sections 2 and 6 of the March 6, 2017 Executive Order violate the Immigration and Nationality Act by discriminating on the basis of nationality, ignoring and modifying the statutory criteria for determining terrorism-related inadmissibility, and exceeding the President’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” Chin said in a statement.

“The new executive order is resulting in the establishment of religion in the state of Hawaii contrary to its state constitution; it is inflicting immediate damage to Hawaii’s economy, educational institutions, and tourism industry; and it is subjecting a portion of the state’s citizens to second-class treatment and discrimination, while denying all Hawaii residents the benefits of an inclusive and pluralistic society,” attorneys for the state argued in court filings.

“The executive order means that thousands of individuals across the United States and in Hawaii who have immediate family members living in the affected countries will now be unable to receive visits from those persons or to be reunited with them in the United States.”

The Justice Department declined to comment on the filing, but will have an opportunity to respond to the state’s amended complaint against the travel ban on March 13.

“The entire history and culture of Hawaii is based upon nondiscrimination either in its constitution as well as its laws,” Chin told KHON.

“Hawaii has 20 percent foreign-born residents and 100,000 people who are not citizens as well as 20 percent of our workforce that are not foreign born.”

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson approved the expedited briefing schedule the parties proposed in order for the case to be heard before the new executive order goes into effect on March 16.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued Monday that the ban was necessary because “we cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism.”

Hawaii had previously sued over Trump’s original travel ban, but the case was put on hold temporarily while a different federal judge’s nationwide temporary restraining order halting the original ban remained in place.

Watson granted the state’s request to lift that hold on Wednesday in light of the new executive order.

“To be sure, the new executive order covers fewer people than the old one,” Neal Katyal, one of the lead attorneys for Hawaii and former acting U.S. solicitor general, explained in an interview.

But in his view, the new travel ban still “suffers from the same constitutional and statutory defects.”

The state’s amended complaint asserts a number of different claims, but primarily emphasizes the new executive order’s alleged discriminatory intent and effect, as well as the harm to Hawaii’s economy.

Hawaii is also joined in the lawsuit by an American who is the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii and says he has lived in state for over a decade with his wife and children, but now his Syrian mother-in-law cannot visit them because she does not currently hold a visa to enter the U.S.

While many immigrants’ rights groups and state attorneys general expressed deep reservations about the new order when it was released Monday, none had filed new lawsuits or amended their original filings until now.