While US District Judge James Robart was sitting in a Seattle courtroom this afternoon hearing arguments from immigrant rights lawyers and the Washington Attorney General's Office as to why he should block the Trump administration's latest travel ban before midnight, a federal judge in Honolulu beat Robart to the punch.
More than 2,500 miles away, US District Judge Derrick Watson halted the rollout of the ban nationwide. Judge Watson ruled that the "stated secular purpose" of the new travel ban—which now only places a temporary ban on Syrian refugees and excludes Iraqi citizens, green card and visa holders—came “secondary to a religious objective." In essence, he agreed with the Hawaii attorney general that the new travel ban raises serious religious discrimination concerns.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the team of civil rights lawyers who successfully blocked Trump's first travel ban in early February were in Robart's courtroom when the news from Hawaii broke.
They chattered excitedly; the news had come as a relief. Judge Robart had told the team that he intended to rule against their motion to apply the injunction they won against the first travel ban to the new, revised executive order, too.
"I hate to take all the drama out of your lives, but it's my intention to deny the motion to enforce," Robart, who was sporting a maroon bowtie, had said from the bench, adding that the lawyers could expect a written ruling on that motion soon. "I believe that there is a sufficient difference between Executive Order 1.0 and Executive Order 2.0 that I can't transfer one over to the other."
Earlier in the afternoon, Judge Robart had also heard arguments from immigrants rights lawyers attempting to halt the travel ban, and said he'd issue a written order on their motion for a temporary restraining order later.
Immediately after he said he'd rule later on the immigrant rights lawyers' case, Robart held a hearing to deal with the Washington State Attorney General's Office. The attorney general, in addition to having filed the motion to enforce the injunction from the first travel ban, had also filed another motion for a temporary restraining order on the new travel ban. Judge Robart heard brief arguments from the state and attorneys representing the federal government, but said he hadn't had the chance to read the AG's motion for the temporary restraining order. Judge Robart ended the hearing saying that he would take their arguments into consideration, but didn't issue a ruling on the requested restraining order from the bench.
"It's a great day," Ferguson said outside the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle after the hearing concluded without a ruling from the bench. "It's our understanding that the judge's decision in Hawaii shuts down the same provisions we were challenging: the refugee ban and the six nation ban. So it's a complete victory from our side."
Ferguson added that he would be working closely with other attorneys general, including Hawaii's, resisting Trump's new travel ban going forward. It's unclear whether Robart will issue an additional temporary restraining order in the immigrants rights case today; Ferguson said it's still a possibility.