Judge who halted second Trump travel ban is only Native Hawaiian on federal bench

Derrick Watson halted the President’s revised travel ban just hours before it was due to take effect 

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The judge who blocked President Donald Trump’s revised hard-line immigration ban is the only native Hawaiian serving on the federal bench.

Derrick Watson halted the President’s revised travel ban, which prevents citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, just hours before it was due to take effect across the US at midnight. The nationwide ruling means people should not be impacted by the order.

Watson, a district judge in Hawaii who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2012, is the fourth Native Hawaiian federal judge in US history.

Upon hearing Watson had been confirmed as a judge in 2013, Brian Emmanuel Schatz, a senior senator for Hawaii, said: "I am confident he will continue to serve our country well, and with Native Hawaiians being underrepresented on the federal bench, his confirmation is a big step in the right direction towards diversifying the court”.

Keith Lee, corporate counsel for the Waianae Coast Comprehensive centre, said Judge Watson was not influenced by politics and was “super fair”. Lee first became acquainted with Watson in 2012 when he was still an assistant US attorney.

"He doesn't have a big ego. If anything, he's kind of understated,” Lee said.

Watson rejected Mr Trump’s claims the travel ban was not a “Muslim ban” and insisted it “targets Islam”.

He wrote: “A reasonable, objective observer... would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavour a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose”.

The judge added: “It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7 per cent to 99.8 per cent."

"It would, therefore, be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not."

Mr Trump has vehemently and continuously denied the executive orders are a "Muslim ban". Shortly after his inauguration, he referred to his plans as “extreme vetting” instead.

The President was forced to issue an amended travel ban after his first executive order sparked global protests and unleashed chaos in airports worldwide. The new ban, which was announced earlier this month, would have barred people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. 

The President presumed the new order, which did not involve green card holders, removed contentious language referring to religious minorities and removed Iraq from its list of barred countries, would be more legally watertight. Nevertheless, Watson still issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the new order after concluding it was unconstitutional – a ruling which was predominantly based on derogatory comments made by Mr Trump himself.

Speaking at a rally in Nashville, the billionaire property developer said Watson decision’s to block the revised order was an “unprecedented judicial overreach” and he was prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

"A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries", Mr Trump said.

"The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first order that was also blocked by another judge and that should never have been blocked to start with”.

Judge Watson was one of three federal judges across America that heard legal arguments on Wednesday. Up to half-a-dozen states are endeavouring to block the executive order and judges in Maryland and the state of Washington also listened to cases.

Additional reporting from Associated Press

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