Federal Judge in Hawaii Blocks Latest Executive Order on Immigration

President Donald J. Trump’s March 6, 2017, Executive Order, titled Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States, was blocked last week. Judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii concluded the Executive Order was fatally flawed, showing “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus.” The Executive Order would have taken effect March 16, 2017.

Hours later, Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland followed suit, issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of the 90-day ban against travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Unlike the previous Executive Order, which was blocked by a federal judge in Seattle on February 3, the more recent Executive Order removed Iraq from the list of banned countries, exempted those with green cards and visas, and removed a provision that arguably prioritized certain religious minorities.

A memorandum to the Attorney General and the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security was issued in conjunction with the executive order. The memorandum would have directed the departments to:

  • Implement vetting protocols and procedures for visas;
  • Enforce all laws for entry into the U.S.;
  • Issue new rules, regulations or guidance as necessary; and
  • Report on relevant activities, such as the number of visas issued, the number of adjustments of immigration status granted, and the ongoing support of refugees.

The blocked Executive Order did not include:

  • Those with current, validly issued visas;
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents (green card holders);
  • Dual nationals of any country included in the travel ban for individuals traveling on a passport issued by a non-designated country;
  • Those traveling on diplomatic or diplomatic-style visas;
  • Any foreign national already granted asylum;
  • Any refugee already admitted to the U.S.; and
  • Any individual granted a waiver of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture.

The latest Executive Order would have continued to include:

  • A travel ban for 90 days, including suspension of visas and other immigration benefits, to nationals of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. (Notably, Iraq is no longer included in the list of designated countries);
  • A 120-day suspension of refugee admission from all countries in the US; and
  • A reduction of refugee admissions by half, to 50,000 a year.

The Executive Order would have suspended the State Department’s Visa Interview Waiver Program, so that, subject only to specific statutory exceptions, all individuals seeking non-immigrant visas would have to undergo an in-person interview.

MSEC will continue to monitor all issues relating to immigration.