A federal judge in Seattle on Friday temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s travel ban against citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.
U.S. District Judge James Robart, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, made the ruling in a lawsuit in which Washington state argued that the ban barring entry of refugees and travelers from the seven nations mandated discrimination and caused harm to residents.
“No one is above the law — not even the president,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson tweeted Friday night.
Washington was the first state to challenge Trump’s order in court.
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The Seattle court’s ruling is just the latest development of an incredible week of national protests and court battles over Trump’s executive order, which the administration claims is intended to protect the nation from terrorists, but that many see as unconstitutional discrimination against people of the Muslim faith.
The court’s order was the harshest blow yet to Trump’s order, though in the week since it was issued, the order had been rolled back and reinterpreted to ease some of its most extreme measures. Since its signing Jan. 27, the Trump administration has said it does not apply to permanent U.S. residents, dual citizens who are traveling on a passport from a country not named in the executive order, or to refugees who had already been approved for entry into the U.S.
The impact of Robart’s ruling was uncertain, but Ferguson told CNN that the judge’s action meant that any refugee or visa holder should be allowed into the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security has said its agents would obey all court rulings in the case, but the White House said it would fight the ruling.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of the ruling and defend the executive order, “which we believe is lawful and appropriate.”
“As the law states, ‘Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may, by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate,’ ” Spicer said.
The number of people possibly affected by the ruling could number in the thousands. In another immigration-related case, a lawyer for the United States government testified Friday in a Virginia courtroom that more than 100,000 visas had been revoked as part of Trump’s order.
The Trump executive order banned entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also suspended the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely and all other refugees for 120 days. Trump said the time was needed to ensure that individuals seeking to enter the country are who they claim to be and do not pose a public-safety threat.
On Thursday, Ali Vayeghan, an Iranian citizen, who was barred from entering the U.S. last week, returned to Los Angeles under a court order that required the Department of Homeland Security to fly him back from Iran, to which he’d been returned after he was denied entry. The 52-year-old green card holder was greeted by applauding family members as he emerged from Customs Thursday night.
The U.S. government also has granted waivers to 872 refugees who’d been initially excluded under the order.
Nearly every word of this executive order has changed meaning, had to be clarified.
David Bier, Cato Institute
The Department of Homeland Security said Friday that its conducting a “country-by-country review” to determine which countries do not provide adequate information on their nationals seeking admission into the United States. The results will be reported back to Trump within 30 days.
“Principally, the goal is to ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward the United States and its founding principles,” DHS officials said in a statement.
Revision of the Trump order began within hours of its issuance as federal judges from coast-to-coast heard challenges to its conditions as confusion and chaos played out at the nation’s busiest international airports. A University of Michigan Law School page that tracks judicial challenges to aspects of the travel ban has recorded nearly 50 lawsuits over the order.
In Vayeghan’s case, Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California, ordered the government to cooperate in his return. In Boston, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs and U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Gail Dein blocked the detention or deportation of individuals with valid U.S. visas, though they allowed that order to lapse Friday.
David Bier, a former senior policy adviser for Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, said it’s no surprise that the immigration order was accompanied by chaos and court challenges.
“Nearly every word of this executive order has changed meaning,” Bier, now an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said. “Even what the word ‘entry’ means is up in the air. What does the word immigrant mean? It’s not clear from the order. What does it mean to be from one of these countries? Still we don’t know what that means. It’s a very fluid situation when you have that little amount of clarity.”
Bier said that while the word “entry” would seem to apply only to those outside the country, the order also appears to deny visas to people in the country legally who are seeking temporary work visas or green card renewals, Bier said.
However you want to define it, its definitely a discriminatory policy.
Wendy Feliz, American Immigration Council
Bier noted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it’s treating travelers according to the travel documents they present. That’s a reversal of Trump’s language, which said citizens of the seven countries were barred, without regard to whether they also held other documents.
The Seattle lawsuit alleged that Trump’s order discriminated against tens of thousands of visa holders and applicants with family in the United States. The fact that the judge granted a restraining order indicates that he agreed the lawsuit was likely to prevail.
“You can’t discriminate against any particular group of people and this is very clearly based on national origin or religion,” said Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council. “However you want to define it, it’s definitely a discriminatory policy.”