DOJ joins federal lawsuit challenging Hawaii’s 14-day mandatory quarantine for visitors

The US Department of Justice is backing up a federal lawsuit challenging Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day quarantine order for visitors to the state.

The Justice Department filed a statement on June 23 in support of a lawsuit filed by Nevada and California residents who own property in Hawaii.

The lawsuit challenges a mandate by Hawaii Gov. David Ige that requires a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals entering Hawaii.

Under the governor’s order, Hawaii residents who have remained in the state since the onset of the pandemic are free to travel between the islands, engage in commerce and maintain their properties. Those who arrive from out-of-state must self-quarantine in a single location for two weeks before they can share in the same activities.

Anyone who violates the self quarantine could face a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

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According to the parties who filed the lawsuit, the COVID-19 order discriminates against out-of-state residents in a manner that harms Hawaii’s economy.

The DOJ wrote, “Although Hawaii’s Governor may take reasonable steps to protect public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor must show that the effective discrimination against out-of-staters at issue here bears a substantial relationship to that goal. As of now, he has not done so.”

The Statement of Interest is part of Attorney General William P. Barr’s April 27, 2020 initiative to review state and local policies to ensure that constitutional rights and civil liberties are protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

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According to the DOJ’s statement, the governor’s mandate is inadequately tailored to public safety and therefore does not comply with the constitution.

“The United States Constitution requires government to protect the privileges and immunities of all citizens in our nation,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “These privileges and immunities include the right of Americans to travel freely anywhere in our country, and state governments cannot limit the right of out-of-state Americans to travel to their state unless doing so is substantially related to protecting the public safety. The Department of Justice remains committed to defending the constitutional rights of all Americans no matter where they live. The department will continue to be especially vigilant of any infringement on the right to travel that unduly harms the ability of Americans to earn a living and support their families.”

The State Attorney General's department provided this response: "The Department of Justice’s statement of interest filed in the Carmichael v. Ige matter is, like the plaintiff’s allegations, without merit. The Governor’s Emergency Proclamation for COVID-19 and the subsequent proclamations were properly and lawfully issued pursuant to the Governor’s statutory authority and his determination that an emergency exists due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the danger and threat it poses to Hawaii."

According to the Associated Press, June 19 saw the largest single-day increase in Hawaii since April in what officials say is an expected spike as restaurants, gyms, and churches reopen. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Hawaii’s unemployment rate up to 22.6%.

In a similar move to Ise’s, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that travelers arriving in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from regions with spiking COVID-19 infection rates will need to self-isolate for 14 days.The states that are above that level are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

There have been 819 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Hawaii — which marks the third-lowest state case count in the country. Of those cases, 13% have required hospitalization, and 750 (92%) were residents. Out-of-state residents account for 12 of the cases. Thus far, there have been 17 deaths in the state.