A federal judge in Hawaii has frozen President Donald Trump's new travel ban just hours before it was set to take effect. US District Judge Derrick Watson froze the executive order that temporarily bars new visas from being issued to travellers from six Muslim-majority countries and suspends the admission of new refugees.
During a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump blasted Judge Watson's ruling as "an unprecedented judicial overreach". The president promised to fight against the ruling, even if it meant going up to the Supreme Court. "We're going to win. We're going to keep our citizens safe, and regardless, we're going to keep our citizens safe, believe me," he told the cheering crowd.
Watson, the second of three judges to hear arguments on Wednesday (15 March) about the new travel ban, delivered his ruling after a lawsuit filed by Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin against the ban.
Attorneys for Hawaii claimed the new travel ban, like its predecessor, was in direct violation of the First Amendment.
According to the Washington Post, the state argued the ban essentially banned Muslims, hurt state businesses and universities, and damaged the state's tourism industry.
A federal judge in Maryland also indicated he could rule before the end of the day, and the federal judge in Washington state who suspended Trump's first travel ban was set to hear arguments beginning at 5pm EST/9pm GMT.
Lawyers for the Trump administration, meanwhile, argued in several courts that the president was exercising his executive powers and that no part of the new executive order could be construed as a religious test, the New York Times reported. In Hawaii, Watson dismissed the government's claim that previous comments by Trump regarding the issue should be ignored.
"Are you saying we close our eyes to the sequence of statements before this?" Watson asked before delivering his ruling against the administration.
The new travel ban was issued on 6 March after Trump suffered a frustrating setback with his earlier executive order. After lashing out at the courts, the president ultimately abandoned the first travel ban and worked on a second, streamlined version.
Trump's second attempt no longer affected travellers who already held visas or US permanent residents, and it excluded Iraq from its targeted countries. Despite the revisions, Democrats and immigration and refugee organisations argued that the new travel ban was a watered-down version of the first executive order.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) blasted the order as "un-American" and said it had nothing to do with national security. Fellow Democrats in both the House and the Senate echoed those thoughts as they flooded Twitter with their criticisms.