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Federal judge in Hawaii extends block on Trump travel ban

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin answers questions from the media at the U.S. District Court Ninth Circuit after presenting his arguments after filing an amended lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s new travel ban in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 15, 2017.

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Last Updated Mar 30, 2017 6:30 AM EDT

HONOLULU -- A federal judge in Hawaii is extending his order that blocks President Donald Trump’s travel ban until the state’s lawsuit works its way through the courts.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued the written ruling Wednesday after hearing arguments.

Seeking the longer-lasting hold, state Attorney General Douglas Chin argued that the ban’s implied message is like a “neon sign flashing ‘Muslim ban, Muslim ban’” that the government didn’t bother to turn off. 

“It is always in the public’s interest to protect constitutional rights,” Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said in court on Wednesday, CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB reports.   

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement Thursday morning saying, “DOJ (the Department of Justice) is reviewing the ruling and considering the best way to defend the President’s lawful and necessary order.”

The Justice Dept. had said that if Watson grants the request, he should narrow the ruling to cover only the part of Mr. Trump’s executive order that suspends new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries. 

The Justice Dept. focused its arguments on the travel ban’s minimal impact in Hawaii, KGMB reports. Government attorney Chad Readler said a freeze on the U.S. refugee program had no effect on Hawaii. 

“In fiscal year 2015, zero refugees were resettled in Hawaii,” Readler said. “Since, three refugees have resettled in the state, and they were from Burma, not anywhere on the travel ban.”

But Watson was critical of the argument, asking Justice Department lawyers whether the hearing was a “mathematical exercise,” according to KGMB.