A federal judge in Hawaii has blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its latest travel ban, just hours before it was set to take effect.
US District Judge Derrick Watson granted Hawaii’s request to temporarily block the policy that was to be implemented starting early on Wednesday.
He found President Donald Trump’s executive order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.”
The judge, appointed by former president Barack Obama, said the new restrictions ignore a federal appeals court ruling that found Mr Trump’s previous ban exceeds the scope of his authority.
The latest version “plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the 9th Circuit has found antithetical to … the founding principles of this nation,” Mr Watson wrote.
In response the White House said it would “vigorously defend” the travel restrictions and it will appeal against the ruling “in an expeditious manner”.
The Trump administration in September announced the restrictions affecting citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen and some Venezuelan Government officials and their families.
The Government has said the new policy was based on an objective assessment of each country’s security situation and willingness to share information with the US.
Hawaii argued in court documents that the updated ban is a continuation of Mr Trump’s “promise to exclude Muslims from the United States” despite the addition of two non-majority Muslim countries.
The judge’s order prevents acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from implementing the latest travel ban.
Mr Watson said he would set an expedited hearing to determine whether the temporary restraining order should be extended.
The White House and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. At a news briefing, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to comment on how it would affect State Department consular operations.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said in a statement: “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”
Immigrant advocacy groups cheered the Hawaii ruling.
“We’re glad, but not surprised, that President Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional Muslim ban has been blocked once again,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants Rights Project, in a statement.