Hawaii has filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking to block the president’s executive order that suspended refugee resettlements and temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, came one week after President Donald Trump issued the travel ban, which sparked nationwide protests, including here in Honolulu, after scores of people were detained at airports across the country.
According to the lawsuit, the state is asking the court to declare much of Trump’s order as “unauthorized by, and contrary to, the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
“We (filed the lawsuit) for one simple reason: Everyone in the United States, including the president, must follow the law and follow the Constitution,” Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said, noting that the state has also filed for a temporary restraining order that would prevent Trump’s order from being enforced.
The court has set a hearing on the state’s motion for a temporary restraining order for Wednesday.
Hawaii is uniquely harmed by Trump’s order, Chin said, because of the state’s diverse population, reliance on tourism and large percentage of residents who have families abroad, among other things.
According to Chin, Hawaii is home to 250,000 foreign-born residents, including more than 100,000 noncitizens. In 2015, Hawaii had 8.7 million visitors — including 6,800 from Middle East and 2,000 from Africa — reaping $15 billion from their spending.
“The executive order that President Trump issued last Friday keeps Hawaii families apart. It blocks Hawaii residents from traveling. It harms Hawaii’s tourism industry. … It blocks Hawaii businesses and universities from hiring as they see fit,” Chin said. “Most importantly, it degrades the values that Hawaii has worked so hard to protect by subjecting a specific set of its residents to discrimination and second-class treatment.”
“We cannot allow this to happen,” Chin said.
According to The Washington Post, Trump’s order has so far led to the revocation of more than 100,000 visas, though the U.S. State Department is disputing the number, saying only about 60,000 visas have been affected.
Hawaii is the third state, after Washington and Minnesota, to file a lawsuit challenging Trump’s order, while three other states have joined in the lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
On Friday, a federal judge in Seattle granted the request by Washington and Minnesota for a temporary restraining order, putting Trump’s order on hold nationwide.
“The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury,” U.S. District Court Judge James Robart said, allowing those who had been barred from entry to come to the U.S.
But the White House soon issued a statement, vowing to appeal the decision.
“At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the president, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” the statement said. “The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
The White House released a second statement 12 minutes later removing the word "outrageous" from the original statement. pic.twitter.com/0a7awoOq5Z
— Honolulu Civil Beat (@CivilBeat) February 4, 2017
Hawaii’s lawsuit, meanwhile, is still going forward.
The state is challenging Trump’s order on a number of constitutional grounds: the First Amendment’s prohibition against the establishment of religion, as well as the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection and due process guarantees.
In its court filings, the state cites a number of Trump’s past statements to bolster its argument that he campaigned on a promise to ban Muslims from coming to the U.S. and kept up that rhetoric while defending his travel ban.
In December 2015, for instance, Trump’s campaign issued, “Donald J. Trump Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration,” which called 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 White House did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment.
Elliott Enoki, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Hawaii, declined to comment for this story, saying the U.S. Justice Department‘s Washington, D.C., office is handling all lawsuits on the travel ban.
“The Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce all of President Trump’s executive orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people,” the statement said. “President Trump’s executive orders remain in place, prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety.”
But Chin said there are better ways to preserve the national security.
“There are ways to be able to address national security without having to discriminate against people in a way that violates the Constitution,” Chin said.
Asked if the state feared retribution from the Trump administration, Chin said Hawaii won’t be bullied into backing down.
“There’s always that concern that we should be careful not to poke the U.S. government because they might end up retaliating against us,” Chin said. “But this is too important. … When you’re talking about orders that are discriminating against people based on national origin or based on their religion, you have to take a stand. We can’t just allow this.”
Civil Beat reporter Kirstin Downey contributed to this report.