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Trump’s travel ban policy suffers legal blow

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President Donald Trump’s travel ban policy has suffered a setback as a US federal judge in Hawaii issued an emergency halt to the order’s implementation.

The stop Order by Judge Derrick Watson is the latest legal blow to the administration’s efforts to temporarily ban refugees as well as travellers from six predominantly Muslim countries.

Judge Watson concluded in his ruling that while the order did not mention Islam by name, “a reasonable, objective observer … would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.” Watson was appointed to the bench by former Democratic President Barack Obama.

President Trump signed the new ban on March 6 in a bid to overcome legal problems with a January executive order that caused chaos at airports and sparked mass protests before a Washington judge stopped its enforcement in February.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson put an emergency stop to the new order in response to a lawsuit filed by the state of Hawaii, which argued that the order discriminated against Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Watson concluded in his ruling that while the order did not mention Islam by name, “a reasonable, objective observer … would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.” Watson was appointed to the bench by former Democratic President Barack Obama.

Speaking at a rally in Nashville, Trump lashed out at the judge’s ruling, saying it ‘makes us look weak.”

He called the judge’s block “unprecedented judicial overreach” and said he will take the case “as far as it needs to go,” including to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Department of Justice called the ruling “flawed both in reasoning and in scope,” adding that the president has broad authority in national security matters. “The Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” it said a statement.

The nation’s highest court is currently split 4-4 between liberals and conservatives with Trump’s pick – appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch – still awaiting confirmation.

Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said the ban was needed to improve vetting of people entering the United States in order to prevent attacks and said he had no doubt that it would be upheld by higher courts.

Watson’s order is only temporary until the broader arguments in the case can be heard. He set an expedited hearing schedule to determine if his ruling should be extended.

Trump’s first travel order was more sweeping than the second revised order. Like the current one, it barred citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days, but it also included Iraq, which was subsequently taken off the list.

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