DOJ backs challenge to Hawaii coronavirus self-quarantine order for out-of-state visitors

Department of Justice called Hawaii's order 'effective discrimination against out-of-state residents'

The Department of Justice has announced its support for a lawsuit filed by Nevada and California residents with property in Hawaii challenging a measure by Hawaii Gov. David Ige that mandates a 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state individuals entering the state in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

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“The United States Constitution requires government to protect the privileges and immunities of all citizens in our nation,” said Assistant U.S. 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 DOJ filed a 21-page statement of interest Tuesday, arguing Hawaii's order was "effective discrimination against out-of-state residents" that "does not appear sufficiently tailored to ensuring public safety.” The filing added that the order “likely violates Article IV’s Privileges and Immunities Clause,” which aims to protect interstate travel.

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According to the Hawaii governor's Ninth Supplementary Proclamation, out-of-state residents must self-quarantine at a single “designated quarantine location” within Hawaii and not leave for two weeks unless they are leaving the state. Anyone who violates the self-quarantine mandate faces up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

A beachgoer wearing a protective mask walks down Waikiki Beach, with Diamond Head mountain in the background, during the spread of the coronavirus in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 28, 2020. (REUTERS/Marco Garcia)

Kenji M. Price, the U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii, noted that "reasonable measures designed to protect the public are not only appropriate, but responsible during a pandemic," but he said state officials are bounded to "constitutional safeguards, such as the right of Hawaii residents and persons who hail from other states to travel freely within this great country."

"As our state leaders consider the way forward with Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine, it is my hope that they will pay due consideration to the protections embedded in the Constitution, so that visitors from far and wide may experience the Aloha spirit that makes Hawaii such a special place,” Price added.

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Krishna Jayaram, special assistant to Hawaii's attorney general, told FOX Business "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," Jayaram added.

There are 819 confirmed coronavirus cases and 17 deaths in Hawaii, according to the state health department.

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