A federal judge in Hawaii Wednesday issued an emergency halt to the implementation of US President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.
The ruling was made just hours before the commencement of the ban fixed for Thursday.
The Stop Order by Judge Derrick Watson is the latest legal blow to the administration’s efforts to temporarily ban refugees as well as travellers from six predominantly Muslim countries.
Trump who had said the travel ban is needed for national security and lashed out at the judge’s ruling, said it “makes us look weak”.
The American President signed the new ban on March 6 in a bid to overcome legal problems with a January executive order that caused chaos at airports and sparked mass protests before a Washington judge stopped its enforcement in February.
US District Judge, Derrick Watson put an emergency stop to the new order in response to a lawsuit filed by the state of Hawaii, which argued that the order discriminated against Muslims in violation of the US Constitution, Rueters reports.
Judge Watson concluded in his ruling that while the order did not mention Islam by name, “a reasonable, objective observer…would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”
Watson was appointed to the bench by former Democratic President Barack Obama.
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.
Trump 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.
The Department of Justice called the ruling “flawed both in reasoning and in scope”, added that the president has broad authority in national security matters.
“The Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” it said in a statement.
Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said the ban was needed to improve vetting of people entering the United States in order to prevent attacks and said he had no doubt that it would be upheld by higher courts.
Watson’s order is only temporary until the broader arguments in the case can be heard. He set an expedited hearing schedule to determine if his ruling should be extended.
Trump’s first travel order was more sweeping than the second revised order. Like the current one, it barred citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days, but it also included Iraq, which was subsequently taken off the list.
Refugees were blocked from entering the country for 120 days in both orders, but an indefinite ban on all refugees from Syria was dropped in the new one.
The revised ban also excluded legal permanent residents and existing visa holders. It provided a series of waivers for various categories of immigrants with ties to the United States.
The government, in its court filings cautioned the court against looking for secret motives in the executive order and against performing “judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of heart.”
Watson said he did not need to do that, because evidence of motive could be found in the president’s public statements.
He said he did not give credence to the government’s argument that the order was not anti-Muslim because it targeted only a small percentage of Muslim-majority countries.
“The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed,” the judge stated.