(USA TODAY/Alan Gomez) — A federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide halt to President Trump's attempts to temporarily ban travel from six majority-Muslim countries on Wednesday, delivering a stinging rebuke to Trump in his second attempt to institute the travel order.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled that despite changes made by the White House to the new ban, it clearly violated constitutional protections of religion.
"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 in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose," Watson wrote.
Trump's second attempt to limit travel from those countries had at 12:01 ET Thursday effective date. A group of states, immigration and refugee advocacy groups, and private residents filed lawsuits to block the new ban from going into effect, as happened when Trump issued his first travel ban in late January.
Judges in Hawaii, Maryland and Washington state heard arguments on those legal challenges, with Hawaii being the first to issue a ruling.
The executive order, signed by Trump on March 6, bars citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. It includes several changes from the original ban struck down in court.
Iraq was removed from the list after its government agreed to enhanced screening of its citizens. An indefinite ban on Syrians was dropped. And the new order made clear that nationals of those six countries with valid visas or legal permanent residence (known as green cards) will not be restricted from traveling.
During Wednesday's hearings, government lawyers said those changes were designed to address the concerns raised by judges who blocked the first order. They said the government also removed a section of the original order that gave preference to persecuted religious minorities, which President Trump has said was designed to help Christians trying to immigrate from those majority Muslim countries.
But lawyers trying to block Trump's order argued that those tweaks don't change the underlying problem of the order — that it discriminates against Muslims. Those groups have taken to calling Trump's new order "Muslim Ban 2.0" and say it represents the illegal implementation of his campaign promise to institute a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
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