U.S. President Donald Trump blasted a federal judge who suspended his revised travel order, accusing him of "unprecedented judicial overreach."
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued a decision blocking the order late on March 15, hours before it was to take effect, saying he found a strong likelihood it would be ruled unconstitutional and would cause "irreparable injury" to the state of Hawaii and its citizens.
The executive order aimed to temporarily bar travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries, as well as all refugees, from entering the United States. It was due to go into effect on March 16, but the Hawaii-based judge's ruling means that will not happen.
"This is in the opinion of many an unprecedented judicial overreach," Trump said. He told a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, that suspending a "watered down" order he said was designed to keep terrorists out of the country "makes us look weak."
Trump vowed to fight the decision and take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. "We're going to win" the legal battle, he told supporters.
"The constitution gave the president the power to suspend immigration when he deems it to be in the national interest of our country," he said.
The suspended order, signed on March 6, was a revision of Trump's original January 27 order, which would have placed a 90-day bar on entry by travelers from Iraq in addition to the six countries covered in the new one: Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.
Both the original order and the revised one would also bar all refugees from the United States for 120 days.
The Hawaii judge, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, was highly critical of the new order, saying it relied on "questionable evidence supporting the government's national security motivation."
He said the state of Hawaii's argument that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protection against religious discrimination is likely to succeed in the courts.
An objective observer "would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion," Watson wrote, adding that targeting the six Middle Eastern and African countries "likewise targets Islam" because their Muslim populations range from 90.7 percent to 99.8 percent.
The judge noted that Trump explicitly frames his proposed actions on immigration in religious language and cited a March 2016 interview in which Trump said, "I think Islam hates us."
Hawaii was not the only state trying to stop the travel order. More than half a dozen states have filed court challenges.
Courts in Maryland and Washington state also heard arguments on March 15, and are expected to rule soon on whether the order should be allowed to stand.
The Justice Department called Watson's ruling "flawed both in reasoning and in scope," and insisted that the court did not give sufficient weight to the president's broad legal authority in national security matters.
"The Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts," it said.
The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Paul Ryan, said the ban was needed to improve vetting of people entering the United States and prevent terrorist attacks. He said he had no doubt that it would be upheld eventually by higher courts.
Watson's order is in place temprarily, until the broader arguments in the case can be heard under an expedited schedule before his court.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.