Derrick Kahala Watson has done it again.

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court judge granted Hawaii’s request to temporarily halt the Trump administration’s third version of a travel ban policy, just hours before it was to be implemented.

As in his previous rulings, Watson was eloquent and pointed in his reasoning, verbally slapping down the administration for exceeding its authority.

He determined that President Donald Trump’s third executive order (or EO-3, as the judge calls it) was as poorly crafted and badly reasoned as the second executive order, fundamentally discriminatory and not in the national interest.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson
U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson has smacked down a federal travel ban for the third time. U.S. District Court

Watson has once again demonstrated Hawaii’s position at the forefront of legal challenges to oppressive, irrational and downright mean assaults from the Trump White House.

It should serve as inspiration for future legal challenges and rightly embolden the president’s many foes.

Exceeding Trump’s Authority

Hawaii’s case is on behalf of the state and the nonprofit Muslim Association of Hawaii, the only formal organization of its kind serving the state’s 5,000 Muslims.

Plaintiffs include Ismail Elshikh, an American citizen of Egyptian descent, and two others who have not been identified by name — one a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Yemen and a resident of Hawaii for nearly 30 years, the other a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. born in Iran and working as a professor at the University of Hawaii.

The travel restrictions were to apply to citizens of Iran, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Chad, Libya and Somalia and some Venezuelan officials and their relatives. Family members of the plaintiffs’ would not be able to travel to the United States had the ban gone into effect.

Donald Trump signs second travel ban
President Donald Trump signs an executive order to institute a revised travel ban. White House

The White House, which called Watson’s logic “dangerously flawed,” posits the restrictions are “vital” to making certain that foreign countries comply with American security requirements.

But Watson, as reported Tuesday, explained that the latest restrictions “ignore a federal appeals court ruling that found President Donald Trump’s previous ban exceeds the scope of his authority.”

Some excerpts from the ruling:

  • “Professional athletes mirror the federal government in this respect: they operate within a set of rules, and when one among them forsakes those rules in favor of his own, problems ensue. And so it goes with EO-3.”
  • “Ignoring the guidance afforded by the Ninth Circuit that at least this Court is obligated to follow, EO-3 suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’”
  • EO-3 “plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit has found antithetical to both (federal law) and the founding principles of this Nation.”
  • The plaintiffs note that the president “has never renounced or repudiated his calls for a ban on Muslim immigration” and that “the record has only gotten worse.”
  • “The Government’s contentions are troubling. Not only do they ask this Court to overlook binding precedent issued in the specific context of the various executive immigration orders authored since the beginning of 2017, but they ask this Court to ignore its fundamental responsibility to ensure the legality and constitutionality of EO-3.”
  • “Under the law of this Circuit, these provisions do not afford the President unbridled discretion to do as he pleases.”
  • “Although national security interests are legitimate objectives of the highest order, they cannot justify the public’s harms when the President has wielded his authority unlawfully.”

The ruling makes Trump look like the dangerous xenophobe that he is.

In one of Watson’s footnotes, he quotes from Trump’s Twitter account (@realDonaldTrump) and other sources to capture the president’s true views — for example, “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”

Watson also quotes the Muslim association’s chairman, Hakim Ouansafi, who said — touchingly — that the fear of the ban “has led to, by way of example, children wanting to change their Muslim names and parents wanting their children not to wear head coverings to avoid being victims of violence.”

Ismail Elshikh, seen here at a press conference in March 2017, has been the lead plaintiff in Hawaii’s challenges to the Muslim travel ban. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Doug Chin Strikes Again, Too

Watson’s temporary restraining order is another one-two punch from Hawaii. At the same time, Attorney General Doug Chin is continuing the Ige administration’s efforts to counter other Trump affronts.

On Monday, for example, Chin joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief opposing the administration’s plans to ban open military service by transgender individuals.

Like Watson, the AGs waxed rationally and smoothly in their arguments, contending that since the adoption of open service policies, “there is no evidence that it has disrupted military readiness, operational effectiveness, or morale. To the contrary, anecdotal accounts indicate that the positive impacts of inclusion were beginning to manifest, as capable and well-qualified individuals who were already serving finally were able to do so authentically.”

Trump is scheduled to visit Honolulu in early November on his way to Asia.

One hopes that he will learn that Hawaii is more than “an island in the Pacific,” as Attorney General Jeff Sessions called us when Watson first ruled against the travel ban in April, and is also the birthplace of the 44th president of the United States who had the good sense to appoint his fellow Harvard Law alum Derrick Watson to the federal bench.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson’s Oct. 17 ruling:

About the Author