Uncertainty returned to the US travel scene yesterday in an action involving tourism, as a federal judge in Hawaii issued a restraining order suspending key elements of the revised version of President Donald Trump’ controversial travel ban.
The revised ban was to have taken force today, but the judge decided otherwise. There are over 3000 federal judges in the US and they wield considerable power.
Tourism was a cornerstone of Hawaii’s claim. The state argued that Trump’s revised ban would harm Hawaii’s tourism industry and its ability to recruit foreign students and workers. It said the ban discriminated on the basis of nationality and would prevent Hawaii residents from receiving visits from relatives in the six mainly Muslim countries covered by the ban.
Trump’s first executive order a few weeks ago plunged several major US airports into chaos, with travellers taking off from foreign airports with valid visas, only to find their visas had been annulled during their flights.
A federal judge ruled against that ban and Trump then replaced it with the new, watered down version that temporarily bans immigration from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also suspends America’s refugee program for 120 days.
Trump yesterday slammed the decision by Hawaii Judge Derrick Watson to put a stay on the order as “an unprecedented judicial overreach”. The president has vowed to appeal the decision all the way to the US Supreme Court.
While very few Australian travellers are likely to be hit directly by the ban, the ongoing battle between Trump and the judiciary over the matter introduces a note of uncertainty into travel to the US.
US Travel Association president and chief executive, Roger Dow, warned recently that many international travellers may have drastically misunderstood Trump’s intentions “as wanting to discourage international visitors generally, not just those who pose a security risk”.
Dow spoke of “mounting signs that President Trump’s initial order, which imposed restrictions on visitors from certain high-risk countries and pledged a security review of overall visa procedures, has had a broad chilling effect on demand for international travel to the United States”.
Trump says he is trying to protect American citizens but the state of Hawaii contended that the president’s second executive order on the matter violated the US Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. Judge Watson upheld Hawaii’s argument.
It appears that federal judges in the US have the power to suspend actions ordered by the president.
So how many federal judges are there? The answer is thousands – about 3000, at least.
A count taken a few years ago, as of May 2012, showed a total of 3294 US federal judges, including 2758 district court judges, 714 courts of appeals judges and 112 Supreme Court justices. This added up to 3679 total appointments at that time.
This battle could run and run.
Written by Peter Needham