The Governor of Hawaii is looking forward to the seemingly inevitable Supreme Court showdown between his state’s Attorney General and Donald Trump’s administration over the President’s controversial travel ban.
That contest became a virtual certainty just this week when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a freeze originating in Hawaii on Mr Trump’s proposed ban. Governor David Ige says that the diversity in his state is something to be celebrated – not curtailed – and that his state government is willing to push back against the isolationist impulses coming out of the White House.
“Hawaii is a very special place. We are a community of minorities. Our legacy is that we have welcomed wave after wave of immigrants to our state, and they have all contributed greatly to the sense of community,” Mr Ige told The Independent.
The court decisions over the travel ban have clearly upset the President, with his administration already on its second attempt to halt incoming travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. The executive order would prohibit incoming travellers from Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran and Libya for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days while the US government reviews vetting procedure looking for possible improvements.
As for the Hawaiian islands, they have an extensive history of immigration that has contributed to the rich cultural diversity there. It is one of just four US states where residents of European ancestry don’t add up to a majority, and many of the residents there descend from Asian settlers who came to work on sugarcane plantations starting in the late 19th and early 20th century. Even today, more than one in six residents in the state are immigrants, providing billions of dollars in tax revenue and more than $31bn (£24bn) in consumer purchasing power.
Located in the central Pacific, Hawaii is geographically distant from the US, but houses the military base that fell victim to the largest military attack on American soil in history. Even after those Pearl Harbour attacks by Japan – which served as a catalyst for the US to join the Second World War – the state refrained from joining American mainland states in widespread detainment of Japanese immigrants there. Just 1 per cent of the island state’s Japanese-origin population ended up in internment camps during that war.
It is with that backdrop that Mr Ige's administration decided to push back against the travel ban Mr Trump has championed as a means of boosting American security. Aspects of that ban that appear overtly aimed at specific nationalities and religions don’t vibe with politicians in a state that is perhaps best known for its laid back surfing culture, colourful leis, and beautiful beaches.
“Certainly we felt compelled to take a stand against the executive order which, to us, is clearly focused on national origin and religious basis”, Mr Ige said.
The 9th Circuit Court decision this week affirms the decision by a federal judge in Hawaii to temporarily block Mr Trump’s travel ban just before it was to be implemented.
Mr Trump has said the ban is in the security interests of the US, but in their ruling the 9th Circuit Court went against the ban on statutory grounds, saying that the President had exceeded the authority Congress had granted his office to make national security judgements.
An earlier decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the ban said that the executive order violated the First Amendment’s religious protections. The judge in that case wrote that the federal government’s argument for the travel ban “drops of religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination”.
Mr Trump has also not seemingly helped himself with tweets about the proposed bans. One in particular, sent in response to the London Bridge terror attack earlier this month, said: “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries,” Mr Trump wrote, “not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”.
The President has repeatedly called on the Supreme Court to reinstate his travel ban – and faced a awkward moment on Thursday in visiting the court to for the investiture of new Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose Senate confirmation in April was his first major accomplishment. Mr Trump was due to speak to the Supreme Court justices before the event, as former presidents have traditionally done.
The Trump administration has moved to amend the start date of the travel ban – which was introduced in March – with the 90-day limit having been set to expire on Wednesday. The White House have said that the start dates would not start until the court injunctions are lifted. The Supreme Court has also recently given the Trump administration more time to file papers responding to the 9th Circuit Court ruling, possibly delaying any decision.
As for Mr Ige, he said he wouldn’t mind if the nation’s highest court hear arguments from his state on the matter of the ban.
“We look forward to the Supreme Court taking up the issue, we are committed”, he said. “We do believe that it has an impact on our community, and we wanted to make certain that the most important tenets of the Constitution are upheld.”
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