The Hawaii judge who halted enforcement of President Trump’s executive order on immigration has now gone a step further, turning his temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction. Dara Lind explains:
A temporary restraining order is only supposed to last a couple of weeks. It’s supposed to grant enough time for the judge to do another round of briefs and hearings, and then issue a more considered decision about whether to keep the provision on hold indefinitely while the case works its way through the courts. That indefinite hold is called a preliminary injunction, and a judge in the Western District of Maryland (part of the Fourth Circuit) has already issued one against part of the executive order.
With two separate courts ruling against the travel ban, the administration’s only hope to get the ban back into effect without Supreme Court intervention was for both of those rulings to be overturned — or for the Maryland injunction to be overturned and Judge Watson to decide not to extend his temporary order into a preliminary injunction.
The first option wasn’t likely. The Ninth Circuit is famously liberal, and it’s the same court that put the first version of the travel ban on hold. So the administration’s last hope was Watson.
On Wednesday night, Watson did exactly what the administration hoped he wouldn’t. He issued a preliminary injunction covering both the section of the travel ban temporarily banning people from particular countries and the part temporarily banning refugees.
This may seem like it’s not too big a deal. The immigration order has been on hold for weeks, and now it’s going to stay on hold. But it’s actually a huge deal. For all practical purposes, it means Trump might as well give up.
As you’ll recall, the original immigration order was temporary: it would last about three months, which would give the Trump administration time to put “extreme vetting” procedures into place. That three months is up at the end of May. Presumably, DHS has been working diligently on the new procedures all along, so they should be ready to put them into effect by then.
At some point in May or June, the case becomes legally moot. But that doesn’t really matter. More practically, by the end of May the extreme vetting procedures should be in place and Trump no longer needs the travel ban. After all, its only purpose was to provide time to work out the new procedures.
This is only about six weeks away. Maybe eight if they’ve run into snags. There’s no realistic chance that this case is going to get through two levels of lower courts and the Supreme Court in that time. Trump may keep fighting in order to save face, but it’s pointless. This case is now dead.