Federal judge blocks latest Trump travel restrictions

FILE PHOTO: A member of the Al Murisi family, Yemeni nationals shows the cancelled visa at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, U.S., February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files

RALEIGH – A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Donald Trump’s latest effort to restrict visitors from eight countries deemed by the Department of Homeland Security to be high-risk.  The ruling came just days before it was set to take effect.  The state of Hawaii sued in federal court in Honolulu to block Trump’s latest policy, arguing that federal immigration law did not give him the authority to impose the restrictions on six of those countries. Hawaii did not challenge entry restrictions relating to North Korea and Venezuela.

Democrat-appointed U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu had previously blocked Trump’s last travel ban in March. In his ruling on Tuesday, Watson said Trump’s latest travel ban violates federal immigration law. The White House said the policy was derived from investigations at the Department of Homeland Security where officials there determined that the countries in question would not provide security information on visitors, and were therefore high-risk.

The open-ended ban, announced last month, targeted people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. It was the latest version of a policy that had previously targeted six countries identified as “countries of concern” by the State Department but had been restricted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The policy “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,'” Watson wrote.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.