UPDATED SUNDAY: Without writing an opinion, Judge Watson denied the government’s request to narrow the scope of his order against enforcement. He did not wait for a government reply. The judge’s brief new order said “there is nothing unclear about the scope” of his enforcement ban. He told both sides to advise on next steps in the case.
Resisting the Trump Administration’s new effort to narrow a federal judge’s order barring enforcement of key parts of the presidential limits on immigration, lawyers for the state of Hawaii on Saturday reacted strongly, asking the judge to convert his ruling into a sturdier barrier to the policy.
Administration lawyers are due to answer the new challenge by Hawaii later on Sunday, in hopes of getting U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson to resolve promptly the latest conflict over the scope of the presidential executive order — that is, the revised set of immigration restrictions announced by the White House on March 6.
Late Wednesday night, Judge Watson issued a temporary restraining order that blocked nationwide the Administration from putting into effect a 90-day suspension .of entry into the U.S. of any foreign nationals from six Mideast nations and a 120-day suspension of entry of any refugees from anywhere in the world. The judge ruled that Hawaii and one of its residents, the imam of a mosque, probably would be able to show ultimately that the Trump order was intended to discriminate against Muslims based on their religion, in violation of the Constitution.
The Administration so far has made no effort to appeal that ruling, but it did file a motion on Friday asking the judge to limit his order so that only the 90-day suspension provision would be blocked. That motion argued that the challengers had made little effort to contest the Trump order as it applied to refugees.
In response, lawyers for Hawaii argued late Saturday that all parts of the Trump order as it applies to people from specific Mideast nations and as it applies to refugees are intertwined, so Judge Watson’s order should not be pared down now.
“Allowing any part of one or both of these sections to stand perpetuates the perception that the Executive may make policy predicated on hostility to a particular faith and stigmatizes Muslim citizens,” the filing said.
As of now, the judge’s ban on enforcement is in the form of a temporary restraining order, or TRO — the least potent order a judge can issue to stop a government policy. A TRO is to remain in operation for only a brief period, to keep the status quo intact while a judge takes time to consider whether to impose a stronger order — that is, an injunction.
In their new filing, Hawaii’s lawyers asked Judge Watson to go ahead, without any further wait and without the filing of new legal briefs, to convert the TRO into a preliminary injunction.
If the judge were to make that move, it would be more likely that government lawyers would then appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Ninth Circuit.
Government lawyers have already moved to file an appeal of an injunction issued last week by a federal judge in Maryland. That order, however, only blocks enforcement of the 90-day suspension of entry of people from the list of Mideast nations. That appeal will go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The federal appeals courts operate independently of each other.
President Trump has vowed to take the controversy over his immigration restrictions to the Supreme Court.