A United States judge has halted Donald Trump's revised travel ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, hours before it was due to take effect, dealing a blow to the US President who described it as an "unprecedented judicial overreach" and vowed to challenge the order.
The order by the federal judge in Hawaii comes after the state sued the Trump administration over the revised travel ban issued last week. Hawaii argued that the revised travel ban was still unconstitutional.
The revised travel ban on people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 day was scheduled to come into effect midnight of March 15.
"The illogic of the government's contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed," judge Derrick Watson wrote in his 43-page court order.
"It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7 per cent to 99.8 per cent. It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the government does, that it does not," Watson said.
"Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO (Temporary Restraining Order), that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, 'secondary to a religious objective' of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims," the judge said.
Trump said that the ruling "makes us look weak" and vowed to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
"We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go,including all the way up to the Supreme Court," Trump said as his supporters booed the Hawaii federal judge.
Appearing in a combative mood, Trump alleged that the decision of the Ninth Circuit court was an example of "unprecedented judicial overreach".
In an echo of his attack on the judge who struck down the first travel ban, Trump sarcastically suggested that Watson might have acted for political reasons.
"You don't think this was done by a judge for political reasons?" he asked.
Calling the ban a "watered down version of our first one", Trump said he preferred the original version, which did not exempt green card and visa holders from the ban.
The court order was welcomed by the opposition Democratic party, rights groups and several Indian-American groups.
"Hawaii is a place where people with different ideas, backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities feel welcomed and respected. It's only right that our Attorney General Doug Chin represent those values in working to stop this blanket travel ban from going into effect. This travel ban is bad policy, plain and simple," said Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii.
"Today's ruling underscores that no one, not even a President, can green light discrimination and racism," said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together.
"Despite the administration's legal gymnastics, the Muslim Ban 2.0 remains a stimulus package for hate that has already fanned the flames of fear, violence, and tragedy in our communities. We call upon the President to rescind this executive order in full and begin the work of healing our divided and wounded country," she said.
House Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer said he is not at all surprised that a federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s revised travel ban from taking effect, mirroring the rulings that blocked the previous ban.
"The President and his advisors have been clear all along that the point of instituting such a travel ban is to keep Muslims from entering our country -- a clear violation of the First Amendment," he said.
IMAGE: US President Donald Trump holds a rally at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, US. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters