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Hawaii Just Filed the First Lawsuit Against Trump’s New ‘Muslim Ban’

Hawaii Attorney General Doug ChinImage: AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy

Attorneys for the state of Hawaii filed the first lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s updated executive order — a travel ban on citizens from six Muslim-majority countries and a suspension of the US’s refugee program for 120 days. They were soon joined by New York and Washington. 

The previous executive order was hastily issued and swiftly crippled by lawsuits because of its transparent discrimination, and eventually it was blocked by federal courts.

Take Action: Reverse President Trump’s Executive Order to Ban Refugees

The presiding judges wrote at the time: "On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies. And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination."

The updated document differs in a few ways. Iraq was dropped from the banned country list after lobbying from key military figures, Syrian refugees are no longer indefinitely banned, existing visa-holders will not be affected, and exceptions to the prohibitions will be made on a case-by-case basis.


"The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban."

 Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project


State Attorney General Douglas Chin believes that these updates fail to change the essence of the order, which, he alleges, is still unconstitutional discrimination.

The complaint Chin has lodged contends that the order violates state and federal freedom of religion statutes, needlessly hurts the state’s economy and education system, and discriminates against citizens who have family members from the six targeted countries.“Given that the new executive order began life as a ‘Muslim ban’, its implementation also means that the state will be forced to tolerate a policy that disfavours one religion and violates the establishment clauses of both the federal and state constitutions,” Hawaii’s complaint states.

Hawaii is uniquely positioned to challenge the travel ban because of the state’s diversity and its own history with the consequences of nationality-based discrimination. During World War II Hawaii hosted one of the country’s Japanese internment camps.  

Read More: Global Citizen Opposes President Trump’s Revised 'Refugee Ban'

The first court hearing will be Wednesday, March 15, at 9:30 a.m. The Trump administration has to initially respond by March 13.

Blocking this executive order could be more challenging, as the administration tried to scrub away some of the most flagrant constitutional violations, and the president does have broad discretion when it comes to protecting the country, which the executive order claims to be doing.  

Legals scholars believe that the complaint is bolstered by the addition of an individual plaintiff, Imam Ismail Elshikh of the Muslim Association of Hawaii.

Either way, opponents of the measure are confident that it will end up with a fate similar to its predecessor.

“The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a statement. “Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people.

“What's more, the changes the Trump administration has made, and everything we've learned since the original ban rolled out, completely undermine the bogus national security justifications the president has tried to hide behind and only strengthen the case against his unconstitutional executive orders.”