Trump Campaigns On ‘Preventing Muslim Immigration’
During his successful campaign for president, Donald Trump, a Republican businessman and reality TV star from New York, called for a broad ban on Muslims entering the U.S. from other nations. He put out a press release early in his campaign, on Dec. 7, 2015, titled “Donald J. Trump Statement On Preventing Muslim Immigration.” The press release read, in part: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The language from the press release was later used in lawsuits, including those filed by Hawaii, against a narrower travel ban Trump signed after taking office.
First Trump Travel Ban
President Donald Trump’s first travel ban was an executive order, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, signed on Jan. 27, 2017. The order, which was narrower in scope than his campaign promise, blocked citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The nations that fell under the ban were Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The executive order also blocked refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely barred refugees from Syria.
The order was written with input from just a small circle of White House advisors without any guidance from the Department of Homeland Security. Its implementation plunged the U.S. immigration system in chaos and set off widespread protests, including in Honolulu. Three days after the order was signed, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates wrote a letter to Justice Department lawyers saying she was not sure the travel ban was lawful. President Trump fired Yates later that day.
Hawaii’s Response To First Travel Ban
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin holds a news conference on Feb. 3, 2017 to discuss the lawsuit to stop President Trump’s initial travel ban.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
On Jan. 29, 2017, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin joined with the attorneys general of 15 other states and the District of Columbia to release a public statement condemning the executive order and vowing it would be struck down by the courts.
A week after the travel ban was signed, Chin filed a lawsuit against it in U.S. District Court in Honolulu. Hawaii asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to block the travel ban. The suit was one of many filed against the Trump administration challenging the travel ban.
The same day Hawaii filed its lawsuit, a federal judge in Washington state responded to a lawsuit there by ordering the travel ban to be temporarily put on hold nationwide. Hawaii’s lawsuit was paused while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided whether to reinstate the travel ban. On Feb. 9, 2017, the appeals court ruled against the Trump administration and blocked the travel ban. The decision effectively put Hawaii’s lawsuit on hold and forced the White House to decide whether to take its case to the Supreme Court or revise the travel ban to overcome legal challenges.
Second Trump Travel Ban
President Donald Trump signs an executive order on Feb. 6, 2017 to institute a revised travel ban.
President Trump signed a second executive order under the same title, Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States, on March 6, 2017, revising his original travel ban in an attempt to get around the legal challenges it faced.
Unlike the first order, which went into effect immediately, the second order had a 10-day grace period before its rules went into effect. Iraq was also removed from the list of majority-Muslim nations affected by the travel ban, narrowing that list from seven to six. The revised order also dropped the ban on Syrian refugees.
Hawaii’s Response To Second Travel Ban
Hawaii became the first state to challenge the revised travel ban despite its changes, filing a fresh complaint on March 8, 2017 as part of its original federal lawsuit against the Trump administration. The state also asked U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson, who was overseeing the case in Hawaii, to halt the travel ban before it could take effect, arguing that it was designed to discriminate against Muslims.
U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson
U.S. District Court
On March 15, 2017, Watson issued a 43-page order putting a nationwide temporary halt to the revised travel ban. Watson ruled that Trump’s directive was essentially a Muslim ban disguised as travel order and therefore likely unconstitutional.
Trump criticized Watson’s ruling at a rally in Nashville the same day, vowing that he would eventually prevail in front of the Supreme Court. Watson’s decision briefly ignited some Trump supporters to take to social media using the hashtag #BoycottHawaii.
Jeff Sessions Takes Heat For ‘Island In The Pacific’ Comment
During an interview with conservative radio host Mark Levin on April 18, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed the president’s confidence that Watson’s ruling would be overturned by the Supreme Court if not at the appellate level. But he faced widespread criticism later for describing Hawaii as “an island in the Pacific.”
Sessions’ comment, as transcribed by the Los Angeles Times:
We are confident that the president will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the 9th Circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.
Hawaii U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono responded to the comment on Twitter by calling it “dog whistle politics.”
Supreme Court Partially Allows Travel Ban
The Supreme Court gave President Trump a limited victory on June 26, 2017 when it said it would hear arguments about the travel ban later in the year and in the meantime would allow the ban to partially take effect.
The court placed some limits on how far Trump’s ban could go while the case was waiting to be heard. The court said the administration couldn’t block people with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” That meant people coming to the U.S. from the targeted countries could continue to do so if they were visiting a relative or attending a university, among other things. While Trump hailed the Supreme Court, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said it was “premature” for the president to declare victory and that he was optimistic the court would eventually side with Hawaii.
Days later, after the Trump administration issued rules allowing some relatives from the majority Muslim nations to visit the U.S., Hawaii asked the courts to allow even more relatives. On July 19, 2017, following a series of conflicting opinions from lower courts, the Supreme Court sided with Hawaii and ordered the Trump administration to allow more relatives to visit family members in the U.S.