On March 15, 2017, the day before President Trump’s new Executive Order (EO) entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” went into effect, a federal judge in Hawai’i issued a nationwide temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking the implementation of the EO. This EO, issued on March 6, 2017, revoked and replaced the original EO issued on Jan. 25, 2017. The first EO was also temporarily halted by a federal court in Seattle, after which the Ninth Circuit stayed the ruling.
In the current case at hand, State of Hawai’i and Ismail Elshikh vs. Donald J. Trump, et al., Judge Derrick K. Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai’i granted the Motion for TRO filed earlier in the week. The TRO was granted on grounds that the EO violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In his ruling, Judge Watson cited portions of the new EO that suspend U.S. entry of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with certain exceptions carved out that were not explicit in the first EO, such as exempting lawful permanent residents and those who are already physically in the United States. The new EO also includes text that suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days.
The plaintiffs in the case, the State of Hawai’i and Dr. Elshikh, both cited to injuries that would occur to both the state and the family, respectively, if the EO was implemented, since it bans travel for nationals from one of the six designated countries who are abroad. The plaintiffs also stressed that the text of the EO effectively targets the Muslim religion, quoting statements made during interviews and campaigns by the administration. As such, the plaintiffs sought to enjoin Sections 2 and 6 of the new EO.
Judge Watson found that the State of Hawai’i had standing, based on the fact that its university systems would suffer from both a cultural and financial burden, as would its tourism industry. He also found that Dr. Elshikh had standing due to the fact that he was able to show injury to his family if the EO was implemented.
As to the legal basis for granting the TRO, Judge Watson found that due to the background, history, and intent of the newly issued EO, the Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of an Establishment Clause claim.
In addition, on March 16, 2017, a federal judge in Maryland also temporarily blocked the order.