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Legal limbo

Federal judge ensures Trump's travel ban won't go into effect anytime soon

Trump’s travel ban isn’t getting out of legal limbo anytime soon

The nationwide block on President Donald Trump’s travel ban isn’t going anywhere, at least for now.

After keeping the ban from going into effect earlier this month over concerns that it would violate the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued another ruling Wednesday extending his hold on the executive order. In a hearing in Honolulu, Watson heard arguments from Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, asking to extend the block, and government attorneys, who wanted the judge to at least narrow its scope.

The executive order would have prevented nationals of six Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya — from entering the U.S. and stopped all refugee refugee resettlement for 120 days. Department of Justice lawyers had hoped to convince Watson to only block the part of the executive order that applied to the six countries, but the judge declined.

What changed from the last ruling?

Watson’s original order was a temporary restraining order — an emergency measure that ends after a certain time period. In his ruling Wednesday, Watson extended that order to a preliminary injunction, which can remain in effect throughout an entire court case. And the legal battle against Trump’s ban could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Yet the reasoning behind both rulings remains the same. As in the first hearing, Watson found that Hawaii, which argued its tourism and higher education industries would suffer irreparable harm if the travel ban took effect, presented a solid claim that the executive order is unconstitutional.

While Watson wrote in the his ruling that Department of Justice attorneys have repeatedly asked him to “not to look beyond the four corners of the Executive Order,” the judge once more pointed to the Trump administration’s record of promising to ban Muslims from the United States as evidence of the executive order’s discriminatory intent.

“The Court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has,” Watson wrote in his ruling.

What happens now?

Even if the Department of Justice appeals Watson’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the order will still keep the travel ban from going into effect. Then, if that court rules in favor of the government, Hawaii could appeal that decision, which could send the case to the Supreme Court.

Another federal judge in Maryland also ruled to block the executive order country-wide, and the government already filed an appeal to to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear arguments on May 8.

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