Will it take the youngest state in the U.S., one of the smallest states in the country, and one about as far removed from any other state as you can get, to be the flag-bearer against the latest iteration of President Trump’s travel ban?
It appears that way, so mark your calendar for the ides of March.
Hawaii has no fear in taking on the administration, that’s for sure. State attorneys in Honolulu announced last week they have filed a lawsuit, becoming the first state to file suit to stop the new travel ban.
Hawaii was part of the original lawsuit filed by Washington state and joined by Minnesota and Oregon, but its suit on hold to allow court cases in other states to be heard. The original travel ban and the new one are mostly similar in terms of not allowing immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries into the U.S. for 90 days until the administration can figure out a proper vetting strategy.
The second ban dropped Iraq as one of the seven nations listed, and also allows Green Card holders the right to stay in the U.S.
Kudos for the initiative on Hawaii’s part. The state says, like Washington argued, that the travel ban will harm Hawaii’s ability to draw tourists and students from Muslim nations. In large part, Hawaii has such a vested interest because of its culture and its location.
"Hawaii is special in that it has always been non-discriminatory in both its history and constitution," Attorney General Doug Chin said. "Twenty percent of the people are foreign-born, 100,000 are non-citizens and 20 percent of the labor force is foreign-born."
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson set a hearing for this Wednesday, March 15, a day before the new executive order goes into effect.
Still, Hawaii is going to need help to make this work.
The administration was careful – very careful – to choose specific language that would be lawsuit-proof. While Hawaii put its lawsuit on hold previously to allow the other states to play through, as it were, this second version of the travel ban might be a ripe case for strength in numbers.
The new language in the travel ban was written expressly to show that this is not a ban on religion. Any lawsuit will have to be filed with its own due diligence and proper wording.
Does Hawaii welcome many Muslim tourists to its islands? To the University of Hawaii? To any manufacturing workforce? Well, certainly not as many as from the U.S. mainland or Pacific Rim countries, so the question is whether that matters. Perhaps that is why Hawaii will need some peers to join the suit, as Washington state said it will already do so from the original lawsuit.
The travel ban remains a jump ball in every aspect — not just politically. There are, indeed, social and religious ramifications, economic factors, and more.
It will be interesting to see whether the federal courts continue to take the same stance as they did in January – and how far Trump will continue to push it if denied.