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Hawaii Attorney General On His Challenge To New Trump Travel Ban


Hawaii is the first state to mount a legal challenge to President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. That state's attorney general, Douglas Chin, a Democrat, has called Trump's new executive order, quote, "Muslim ban 2.0" - in other words, another version of the first one. This new executive order temporarily bans travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, and it takes effect on March 16. Hawaii was among the first states to fight the original ban in court. And this morning, we have on the line the state's attorney general, Douglas Chin. He's in Honolulu. Mr. Attorney General, good morning.

DOUGLAS CHIN: Good morning.

GREENE: So you are arguing here that the president's new order harms Muslims in Hawaii. How does the order do that?

CHIN: Well, even the new executive order has the same defects in the sense that it still involves discrimination against people based on national origin or religion. You have the same blanket ban on entry from Muslim-majority countries, minus one, the same shutdown of refugee admissions and then the same types of exceptions and waivers.

GREENE: Although there are more waivers and exceptions, it seems, in this new version, the language from the White House has been explicit that this is not based on animus toward a religion. So how do you prove, legally here, that the administration is essentially lying?

CHIN: Right. There's this great quote that comes from a 2005 Ten Commandments case where - a city that wanted to try to put in the Ten Commandments into a public building. And so what the Supreme Court said about that was that the world is not made brand new every morning. So in other words, you can try to dress up the language or call something different and in a more neutral way, but it doesn't take away the historical comments that were made by President Trump when he was running for office and then all the way up until as recently as a month ago.

GREENE: So this is going to come down to a judge deciding that what Donald Trump said, at least largely in the heat of the presidential campaign, is at the heart of this and that it is not, as the administration says, about national security.

CHIN: Yes, that's right. So in other words, I think everybody wants safety and security in their state or in the entire U.S. But ultimately, there's just too many statements that have been made that they can't be erased. And I think within that context, the courts allow an evaluation of even neutral language that looks back at what were the intentional statements that were made behind that.

GREENE: But what if you have lawyers from the administration arguing that, you know, a candidate says something, it may be incredibly offensive to a lot of people, but that there might have been different things motivating him during the course of a campaign and that right now the White House is acting in the interest of national security?

CHIN: You know, that would be great except it didn't even stop after President Trump took office. So in other words, the new executive order actually says explicitly within the preface that the reason why it's there is just to avoid litigation. That's what it says. And then, in addition, Stephen Miller, who, as we all know, is one of the president's special assistants, at the time the second executive order came out described this as maintaining basically - his words - basically the same policies that were there before except it's been tweaked in a way to stop any sort of court challenge.

So, you know, that's one statement on top of all of the other Muslim ban statements that were made by the president and his surrogates that I think create a fatal issue for this.

GREENE: You have spoken about the scars of history for people in Hawaii being through, in your mind, things like this before. What are you talking about?

CHIN: Well, you know, Hawaii has a long history of immigrants. It's the most ethnically diverse state. Twenty percent of its residents are foreign-born. A hundred thousand of - you know, are non-citizens. And so many people who are from here know very well the consequences of getting into the fear of newcomers. There are memories of Japanese internment camps.

This was just the 75th anniversary of an executive order that came from President Roosevelt where, for national security reasons, then Japanese-Americans were placed in these camps. So to us, this is the dark path that we're trying to avoid and I think we feel like we need to speak up against.

GREENE: OK. Douglas Chin is the attorney general in the state of Hawaii, and he joined us from Honolulu. Thanks so much.

CHIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.