Hawaii takes another legal swat at Trump travel ban

Lawyers for the state of Hawaii are making yet another bid to rein in President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order, returning to a federal judge who rejected a similar request just one day earlier.

Late Friday night (HST) the state’s legal team filed a new motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson to declare that the policy the Trump administration began implementing last week violates an injunction Watson issued in March.

Hawaii’s attorneys, led by Attorney General Douglas Chin and private counsel Neal Katyal, also made an alternative request that Watson modify his order to prohibit the federal government from using a restrictive interpretation requiring immigrants to have sufficient family or other ties to the U.S. to win an exemption from the travel ban.

"Both forms of relief are within this Court’s power to award, and Plaintiffs respectfully ask that this Court act swiftly to vindicate its injunction and halt the Government’s campaign of unlawful conduct," Hawaii’s lawyers wrote.

In an order Thursday, Watson said it was not his role to interpret a Supreme Court ruling from last month that allowed Trump to proceed with his efforts to suspend visa issuance to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries and to halt refugees from around the globe. While the justices effectively revived a policy that lower federal courts had gutted, the high court also gave foreigners with certain kinds of U.S. ties a reprieve from the limits—at least until the justices hear formal arguments on the issue in October.

Hawaii’s legal team immediately appealed Watson’s decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which turned aside the appeal Friday, but indicated that the judge did have the authority to rule on whether the U.S. Government is violating as much of the injunction as remains in place.

In the new filing, lawyers for the state and Hawaii imam Ismail Elshikh argue that Watson needs to grapple with the critical issue of whether the Trump administration is using too narrow a definition of who is a close family member and also improperly barring refugees already assigned to U.S. resettlement agencies.

"Plaintiffs retain their right to enforcement of the non-stayed part of the injunction—that is, they still have a right to ensure that the Government does not enforce the Order against aliens who have a ‘bona fide relationship’ with a U.S. person or entity," lawyers for the state and Elshikh wrote. "Because the Government has already begun to implement the Order in accordance with guidance that violates that right, Plaintiffs are entitled to the relief necessary to prevent the violation. In the course of issuing that relief, this Court of necessity must interpret the scope of the Supreme Court’s order."

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