Wall Street Journal
By Brent Kendall
March 30, 2017
WASHINGTON—The Justice Department on Thursday formally appealed a Hawaii judge’s ruling that blocked President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on immigration and refugees, the latest chapter in a legal battle playing out in courts across the U.S.
Earlier this month, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland issued rulings within hours of one another that halted Mr. Trump’s order shortly before it was scheduled to go into effect. The revised executive order, signed March 6, sought to bar U.S. entry for people from six Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—and suspended the U.S. refugee program, saying the actions would help prevent terrorism.
The revised order came after courts stopped the president from enforcing his initial version, which placed broader restrictions on travel to the U.S. and didn’t give those affected advance notice. The White House tweaked its approach in an attempt to respond to at least some of the judges’ concerns.
Mr. Trump has cited national security justifications for his order, but challengers who have filed lawsuits in several states have alleged that it unlawfully disfavors Muslims. The Hawaii and Maryland rulings this month blocked the president’s travel restrictions after finding that the challengers were likely to prevail on those arguments.
The Justice Department had already appealed the Maryland ruling to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and oral arguments are scheduled there for May 8. The Hawaii appeal will go to the Ninth Circuit, a San Francisco-based court that issued a key ruling in February halting Mr. Trump’s first immigration order.
The government appeal in the Hawaii case came a day after U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu converted his original temporary restraining order against the president into a preliminary injunction, which has the effect of prolonging his suspension of the order.
Courts so far haven’t issued final rulings on the merits of Mr. Trump’s executive order. Instead, they have been deciding whether to put the order on hold as the cases on the order’s underlying legitimacy unfold, a decision that turns in part on judges’ view of whether the challengers are likely ultimately to succeed.
One trial judge in Virginia recently sided with the president, saying his executive order likely would withstand legal challenge. That ruling, however, had little practical impact because of the other court rulings putting the travel ban on hold.
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