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Hawaii files suit challenging Trump’s new travel executive order

President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

By Ese Olumhense

‘Nothing more than Muslim Ban 2.0’

Hawaii’s attorney general has filed a challenge to President Donald Trump’s latest executive order. Released on Monday, the order bans travel to the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim countries.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin and his co-counsel assert in their filing that the order is unconstitutional and violates federal immigration law, as it “inflicts a grave injury on Muslims in Hawaii,” subjecting them to discrimination and “second-class treatment.”

“The order denies them their right to associate with family members overseas on the basis of their religion and national origin,” the filed documents read. “And it results in their having to live in a country and in a state where there is the perception that the government has established a disfavored religion.”

If successful, Hawaii’s challenge would block implementation of the new restrictions, which are to go into effect on March 16. The latest order replaces Trump’s original one, issued on Jan. 27. Washington state sued Trump over the first order, which was blocked by a federal judge in Seattle. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously refused to reinstate it on Feb. 9.

“This new executive order is nothing more than Muslim Ban 2.0,” Chin said in a statement Monday. “Under the pretense of national security, it still targets immigrants and refugees. It leaves the door open for even further restrictions.”

New order, same challenges

Trump’s actions on immigration have met fierce resistance from many states.

After he signed the first directive, 15 states and Washington, D.C., which all have Democratic attorneys general, signed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Washington state in its suit. In that brief, the states argued that the order would “[hinder] the free exchange of information, ideas, and talent between the affected countries and the states,” cripple industry, and “[inflict] economic harm.”

Trump’s order has changed somewhat — Iraq is no longer blacklisted, and the directive no longer applies to current visa holders. Syrian refugees are also no longer indefinitely banned, but are now subject to a 120-day travel freeze. The opposing states’ arguments, however, remain largely the same, hinging on the same legal and constitutional questions.

Immediately after the Jan. 27 order was signed, reports surfaced that many green card holders from the banned countries had been detained, prompting several thousand people to gather at major national airports in protest.

Some of the more contentious legal issues challenged in the first iteration of the order — like the status of visa holders and permanent residents from the six countries blacklisted, as well as the barring of refugees already granted asylum — have been eliminated. Refugees of minority religions from these countries will also no longer receive favored status, which judges said indicated an arbitrary governmental preference for some religions over others, a violation of the First Amendment.

It’s significant that it’s Hawaii

The Trump camp’s dogged stance on curtailing immigration from the remaining six countries, evidenced by its update of the executive order, signals that both Trump and the White House will remain aggressive on this front. The administration is intent on carrying out its promises to restrict the migration of travelers who may “commit, aid, or support acts of terrorism” — despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that citizenship is an “unlikely indicator” of terroristic threat.

With a legal challenge already in play a day after the new order was introduced, it’s clear that states will continue fighting the constitutionality of the White House’s actions on immigration.

Hawaii’s request on Tuesday that a federal district judge extend the temporary order blocking the “travel ban” is especially important because, like Washington state, it is also in the same appellate circuit — the Ninth Circuit — that shut down the first executive order in a sweeping 3-0 decision.

If a federal judge blocks the new order in Hawaii, and that decision is appealed by the Trump administration, the case will be again heard by the Ninth Circuit, which is likely to reach the conclusion it did in early February. The court is widely regarded as one of the most liberal courts in the country, and conservatives have long criticized it.

The White House appears ready for the coming fight too. Trump has promised to see [challengers] in court, asserting that the “security of our nation is at stake.”