President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban faced mounting new legal challenges on Thursday as the state of Washington, along with several other states, vowed to block the executive order.
The announcement came one day after Hawaii filed the first suit challenging the controversial new directive, which temporarily closes US borders to all refugees and citizens from six mainly-Muslim countries.
Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose state was the first to sue over Trump’s initial travel ban that created airport chaos worldwide and was eventually blocked, said at least three other states — Minnesota, New York and Oregon — are expected to join in the new legal battle.
He said his motion calls on the court to apply an existing injunction against the first travel ban issued in January to the new executive order unveiled on Monday.
“My message to President Trump is –not so fast,” Ferguson told reporters.
“After spending more than a month to fix a broken order that he rushed out the door, the president’s new order reinstates several of the same provisions and has the same illegal motivations as the original,” he said.
“Consequently, we are asking Judge (James) Robart to confirm that the injunction he issued remains in full force and effect as to the reinstated provisions.”Ferguson said although the revised order was narrower in scope, it still could be challenged on constitutional grounds.
The new order denies US entry to all refugees for 120 days and halts for 90 days the granting of visas to nationals from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. It is due to take effect on March 16.
The first order had also applied to citizens of Iraq but the country was dropped from the new list
Hawaii on Tuesday filed the first lawsuit over the new ban, saying it remained unconstitutional despite the changes.
“This second executive order is infected with the same legal problems as the first order — undermining bedrock constitutional and statutory guarantees,” said the suit, which was filed Wednesday in a federal court in Honolulu.
Judge Derrick Watson put the suit on a fast track, scheduling a hearing on whether to impose a national restraining order on March 15, the day before the executive order goes into effect.
The White House cites national security in justifying the ban, arguing that it needs time to implement “extreme vetting” procedures to keep Islamic militants from entering the country.
It comes amid a broader US crackdown on undocumented immigrants, following on Trump’s campaign promises of mass deportations and to build a wall on the Mexican border.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday the orders toughening immigration enforcement have driven down illegal entries — as measured by apprehensions at the border — by 40 percent from January to February.
But Trump suffered a major black eye in January when his first attempt to impose the travel ban erupted into heart-rending scenes of families being detained and deported at US airports and, eventually, a slap from the courts.
Polls show American public opinion is deeply divided on the issue. Most indicate a slight majority of voters opposed, with strong support among Trump’s political base.
Arguments that the ban had caused “irreparable harm” proved crucial in a San Francisco appellate court’s decision to uphold the lower court’s move to block enforcement.
The challenge facing Hawaii will be to show that the ban violates constitutional guarantees against discrimination on the basis of religion.
The White House has modified the latest version of its decree so that it can pass legal muster, stripping away a reference to religion while also explicitly exempting legal permanent residents and current visa holders from the ban.
There also has been 10 days notice before it goes into effect, in a clear attempt to avoid the chaos that broke out when the first ban was imposed with no advance warning on January 27.
In its suit, however, Hawaii argues that the second order “began life as a Muslim ban.” As evidence of the administration’s intentions, the suit detailed numerous instances during the campaign that Trump referred to it as a Muslim ban.
Hawaii also claimed that the order violates constitutional protections against discrimination on the basis of nationality, the right to travel, fair process in determining who can enter or leave the country, as well as violations of US immigration law.
“Nothing of substance has changed: There is the same blanket ban on entry from Muslim-majority countries (minus one),” Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said in a statement.
“The courts did not tolerate the administration’s last attempt to hoodwink the judiciary, and they should not countenance this one,” Chin wrote.—AFP