HONOLULU, Hawaii – The government is asking a federal judge to clarify his order blocking President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, arguing it shouldn’t apply to a global freeze on refugees entering the United States.
A Justice Department motion filed Friday asks U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson to clarify that the temporary restraining order only applies to the president’s temporary ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries.
Watson issued a 43-page ruling on Wednesday after Hawaii requested he block enforcement of Trump’s executive order, which the government calls a national security measure and critics call an unconstitutional and bigoted attempt to bar Muslims from entering the country.
Watson’s ruling concluded there was “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” behind the travel ban, including the president’s own campaign comments regarding Muslims.
He said Hawaii would suffer financially if the executive order constricted the flow of students and tourists to the state.
In seeking clarification, the Justice Department argued that the lawsuit “failed to meaningfully challenge” another section of Trump’s order that bars refugees from travelling to the United States for 120 days and caps the number that will be allowed into the U.S. this fiscal year at 50,000 — a drop of nearly half.
The cap “draws no distinction whatsoever on the basis of religion,” government lawyers argued in a filing.
Opponents have argued that if that aspect of the ban takes effect, 60,000 people would be stranded in war-torn countries with nowhere else to go.
The Justice Department also argued that the Hawaii ruling shouldn’t block Trump’s order that security officials review whether other countries are providing enough information to ensure would-be immigrants aren’t a security threat.
Hawaii believes that the court’s order applies to the sections of the executive order mentioned by the government lawyers, said Joshua Wisch, special assistant to Hawaii’s attorney general. “We do not believe the motion is necessary because the court’s order was clear. We are drafting a memorandum in opposition that we expect to file soon,” Wisch said in an email.
Trump has called the Hawaii ruling an example of “unprecedented judicial overreach” and has indicated it will be appealed.
Similar cases are being heard in federal courts in Washington state and Maryland. In all, more than half a dozen states are trying to block the travel ban.