DOJ says Hawaii’s COVID-19 self-quarantine order is unconstitutional

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Hawaii Gov. David Ige press con COVID-19
Hawaii Governor David Ige press conference regarding statewide stay-at-home order

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is challenging Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s COVID-19 executive order mandating a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals entering the state.

Gov. Ige’s order was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, Hawaii has 819 positive cases, with 13% of the infected individuals having required hospitalization.

The mandatory self-quarantine “applies to all arrivals at state airports from the continental U.S. and international destinations and extends to other private and commercial aircraft.”

Anyone who violates the order will face a misdemeanor charge and will pay a maximum penalty of $5,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year or both.

Discrimination against out-of-state residents

On Wednesday, the DOJ filed a statement of interest in Hawaii federal court, supporting a lawsuit by California and Nevada residents who own property in the state and are against Gov. Ige’s order.

In the statement of interest, the Justice Department explained that Hawaii’s self-quarantine order “effectively discriminates against out-of-state residents” since those who live in the state are not subject to the requirement and can travel freely across the state.

Additionally, the DOJ noted that the order harms Hawaii’s tourism industry. It prevents out-of-state individuals who own properties in the state from taking advantage of opportunities available to Hawaiians who haven’t left the island since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inadequately tailored to further public safety

Furthermore, the DOJ argued that the mandatory self-quarantine violates the Constitution because it is “inadequately tailored to further public safety.”

“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 Justice Department stated.

DOJ Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said, “The United States Constitution requires [the] government to protect the privileges and immunities of all citizens in our nation. 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,” added Dreiband.