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Hawaii judge extends halt on Trump travel ban

CLOSE Hawaii judge extends halt on Trump travel ban
Hawaii judge extends halt on Trump travel ban

After arguing that a freeze on the nation's refugee program had no effect on the state, a federal judge in Hawaii questioned a government attorney Wednesday who urged him to narrow his order blocking President Donald Trump's travel ban. USA TODAY

District Judge Derrick Watson

This December 2015 photo shows U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu. The judge blocked President Trump's revised travel ban on March 15, 2017, hour before it was to take effect. (Photo: George F. Lee, AP)

A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday placed a stronger hold on President Trump's plan to temporarily suspend immigration from six majority Muslim countries, striking another legal blow against the president's attempts to institute a travel ban.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued the first nationwide halt against Trump's revised executive order on March 15. That made Watson's ruling the prevailing block to Trump's plans, but one only designed to last for about two weeks.

On Wednesday, Watson heard arguments from the attorneys for the Hawaii attorney general and the Department of Justice to determine if the block should be extended. Watson did so, issuing a preliminary injunction that will take a more lasting hold. The next step for the Trump administration would be an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which previously ruled against Trump's first travel ban.

In a lawsuit, the state of Hawaii says the policy discriminates against Muslims and hurts the state’s economy, while the government says it falls within the president’s power to protect national security. Watson's order Wednesday blocks Trump's travel ban until the state lawsuit works its way through the courts.

Watson's ruling represented the latest defeat for Trump's attempts to halt immigration from terror-prone countries to give his intelligence community time to develop "extreme vetting" measures to ensure that terrorists don't sneak into the U.S. through the legal immigration system. Critics have said the travel bans are simply illegal Muslim bans, following the president's statements on the campaign trail to halt the entry of Muslims to the U.S.

Other courts around the country have issued different rulings on Trump's revised ban, with a Maryland judge halting a portion of the ban on March 16 and a Virginia judge giving the Trump administration a victory by upholding the ban last week. That division in the courts all but ensures that the case will end up before the Supreme Court, which remains short-handed following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump's nominee to replace Scalia, appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, is facing intense resistance from Democratic senators who are vowing to block his confirmation. That delay could have a significant impact on the fate of Trump's travel ban as the Court remains split 4-4 along ideological lines - the Court needs a majority to overturn lower court rulings.

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Trump's first attempt at the ban, which he signed on Jan. 27, barred entry for nationals of seven majority Muslim countries, shut down the entire refugee program, blocked visitors who already had already

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