In the afternoon of Wednesday, March 15, 2017, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson of the Federal District Court of Hawaii issued a Temporary Restraining Order on President Trump’s “travel ban” on refugees and nationals from 6 predominantly Muslim countries, just hours before the travel ban was to go into effect. The new ban was announced earlier this month and was set to take effect Thursday, March 16, 2017. It would have banned people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. The temporary Restraining Order is the result of a lawsuit brought by the State of Hawaii, which claimed that President Trump’s revised Executive Order and travel ban violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by purposefully disfavoring the Muslim religion, those who practice it, and the states where such Muslim individuals live and work. Although government attorneys argued that the revised Executive Order is neutral in its consideration of religion, Judge Watson concluded that “a reasonable, objective observer — enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance — would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”
The newly issued Temporary Restraining Order from Judge Watson in Hawaii blocks the enactment of the new travel ban, as well as the temporary suspension of the entire U.S. refugee program, on a nationwide level. It is unclear whether the government will appeal Judge Watson’s opinion and order. Similar court proceedings are under way in the States of Washington and Maryland. Opinions from those courts are expected soon. In the meantime, individuals who may be impacted by the impending travel ban may continue to apply for visas and enter the U.S. until further developments dictate otherwise.
While the Executive Order is temporarily halted, foreign nationals from these six countries can expect to be subjected to thorough scrutiny and are advised to ensure they are strictly in compliance with all U.S. visa rules.
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