By Melanie Zanona and Lydia Wheeler - 03-15-17 18:56 PM EDT
A federal judge in Hawaii has placed a nationwide block on President Trump's revised travel order, delivering a major blow to the president's policy just hours before it was set to go into effect.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, a President Obama appointee, ruled after a hearing on Wednesday that the plaintiffs, the state of Hawaii and a Muslim leader, showed a "strong" likelihood to succeed in their lawsuit against the ban. They argue that the policy violates the Establishment Clause and proved that "irreparable harm" is likely if temporary relief is not granted.
The temporary restraining order, which will be in place while the judge considers the case, blocks the sections of the travel ban that would have temporarily suspended the refugee resettlement program and barred nationals from six majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
Hawaii become the first state to sue the administration over the new ban issued last week, which was designed to better stand up to legal challenges than the first version. Attorneys for the state sued over Trump's first order and argued that the revised order was still unconstitutional.
"The illogic of the Government's contentions is palpable," Watson wrote in the 43-page order. "The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed."
Trump removed Iraq from the list of predominantly Muslim countries from which travel is temporarily banned, as well as provisions that banned Syrian refugees indefinitely and included current green card holders - changes meant to more easily defend the order in court.
The government has denied that the ban targets Muslims specifically because it applies to all individuals from certain countries, an argument Watson called "equally flawed."
"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 percent to 99.8 percent," he wrote.
"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."
Federal judges in Maryland and Washington state also heard arguments on separate lawsuits challenging the travel ban on Wednesday.
In Seattle, where the first nationwide hold was placed on Trump's initial order, a group of states led by Washington were pushing to have the previous restraining order apply to the portions of the revised order.
But U.S. District Judge James Robart, a President George W. Bush appointee, said the orders were substantially different and intended to deny the motion, according to multiple reports.
The administration made several deliberate changes designed to hold up better in court, such as dropping Iraq from the list of banned nations, scrapping an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, removing language giving preference to religious minorities when the refugee program resumes, and specifically exempting legal U.S. residents and certain visa holders.
Asked by The Hill about the judge's ruling, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he was confident Trump's travel ban would stand up in court.
"Absolutely I supported it. I think it makes a lot of sense," Ryan said at a news conference Wednesday evening. "We have gotten a lot of intelligence briefings about the lack of vetting standards or the ability to vet from certain countries. I have no doubt that this [the travel ban] will stand."
Scott Wong contributed