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Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Play Huge Roles in Stopping Muslim Travel Ban

Doug Chin
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin

Three Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders knocked the White House for a loop when at the 11th hour, they succeeded in blocking the President’s travel ban from six mostly Muslim countries.

The orders by Judge Theodore Chuang from the district of Maryland and Derrick Watson from the district of Hawaii were issued just hours before the ban was to take effect.

The ban was challenged by among others, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin.

Chin told Yunji De Nies of Hawaii’s Civil Beat that he could not be “silent while somebody was instituting things that got more and more discriminatory.”

Chin was born in Seattle to parents who came to the United States to flee communism in China. He is named after the father of the host family that helped his parents adjust to their new life in America.

“I know this executive order, it’s not internment camps,” said Chin, “but it’s a dog whistle. It’s a bad shadowing of things to come. I couldn’t live with myself if we went down a path and didn’t speak up.”

Judge Watson has served as a federal prosecutor in both California and Hawaii, where he became chief of the civil division of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.  The U.S. Senate confirmed him unanimously in 2013 after being nominated by President Obama in 2012.  He is the only Native Hawaiian currently sitting on the federal bench and is only the fourth in U.S. history.

His ruling has come under attack by the White House as a political one, but those that have worked with him, say he is anything but partisan.

“I would expect his philosophy as a judge to be very similar to his philosophy as a lawyer — which was to make decisions based on the law as he saw it and not to let his views and decisions be colored by external influences or biases,” said Jim Colopy to Civil Beat. Colopy worked at two Bay Area law firms with Watson.

Chuang is the former general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security. He was born in Pennsylvania to parents who immigrated from Taiwan. He has also served in the civil rights division for the Department of Justice. His nomination by President Obama was met with fierce opposition from Republicans.

In 2014, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was forced to invoke cloture to end the debate. He was confirmed by a 53 to 42 vote.

“Mr. Chuang has a broad range of legal experience in all three branches of the federal government, and is the son of immigrants from Taiwan who came to America seeking freedom and a better life for their family,” Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) said in a statement when Chuang was confirmed.

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