Federal judge in Seattle blocks Trump immigration order nationwide

By Reuters   February 4, 2017 | 09:14 am GMT+7

The judge's temporary restraining order represents a major challenge to Trump's action, although his administration could still appeal the ruling and have the policy upheld.

A federal judge in Seattle on Friday put a nationwide block on U.S. President Donald Trump's week-old executive order barring nationals from seven countries from entering the United States.

The Seattle judge, James Robart, made his ruling effective immediately on Friday, suggesting that travel restrictions could be lifted straight away.

"It's a wonderful day for the rule of law in this country," said Washington state solicitor general Noah Purcell.

The state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said: "This decision shuts down the executive order right now." He said he expected the federal government to honor the ruling.

The new Republican president's order signed on January 27 triggered chaos at U.S. airports last weekend. Some travelers abroad were turned back from flights into the United States, crowds of hundreds of people packed into arrival areas to protest and legal objections were filed across the country.

The challenge was brought by the state of Washington and later joined by the state of Minnesota. The Seattle judge ruled that the states have legal standing to sue, which could help Democratic attorneys general take on Trump in court on issues beyond immigration.

The decision came on a day that attorneys from four states were in courts challenging Trump's executive order. The Trump administration justified the action on national security grounds, but opponents labeled it an unconstitutional order targeting people based on religious beliefs.

Earlier on Friday, a federal judge in Boston declined to extend a temporary restraining order that allowed some immigrants into the United States from countries affected by Trump's three-month ban.

Also on Friday in Virginia, a federal judge ordered the White House to provide a list of all people stopped from entering the United States by the travel ban.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia ordered the federal government to give the state a list by Thursday of "all persons who have been denied entry to or removed from the United States."

The state of Hawaii on Friday joined the challenge to the order, filing a lawsuit alleging that the order is unconstitutional and asking the court to block the order across the country.

The order also temporarily stopped the entry of all refugees into the country and indefinitely halted the settlement of Syrian refugees.

On Friday the Department of Homeland Security issued additional clarification of the order, stating that there were no plans to extend it beyond the seven countries. The DHS also reiterated that the ban did not apply to permanent residents, or green card holders, and some others, such as those who have helped the U.S. military.

In the Boston case, U.S. District Judge Nathan Gorton denied the request, after expressing skepticism during oral arguments about a civil rights group's claim that Trump's order represented religious discrimination.

Trump's travel ban has revoked 60,000 visas for now

About 60,000 visas were revoked under U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, the State Department said on Friday, in one of several government communications clarifying how the order is being rolled out.

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Pakistani American Aisha Yaqoop, 23, of Atlanta, yells slogans during an anti-Donald Trump travel ban protest outside Hatfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, January 29, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Chris Aluka Berry

The revocation means the government voided travel visas for people trying to enter the United States but the visas could be restored later without a new application, said William Cocks, a spokesman for consular affairs at the State Department.

"We will communicate updates to affected travelers following the 90-day review," he said.

Earlier news reports, citing a government attorney at a federal court hearing, put the figure at more than 100,000 visas.

The government issued over 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015, the State Department said.

The immigration executive order signed by Trump a week ago temporarily halted the U.S. refugee program and imposed a 90-day suspension on people traveling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump said the measures would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

Under President Barack Obama, Trump's predecessor, the United States added those seven countries as "countries of concern" under its visa waiver program, effectively toughening U.S. visa procedures for individuals who visited those places during the past five years.

Trump's executive order was at least in part informed by those restrictions. The new president, who took office on January 20, went further by temporarily barring passport holders from those seven countries.

The State Department first issued the guidance about revoking the visas on Januart 27, the day Trump signed his executive order, according to a memo filed in a court case in Massachusetts.

But confusion about the roll out of the order sparked protests at airports across the country where people had been detained and led to a wave of lawsuits filed by individuals, states and civil rights groups.

To further clarify how the order should be applied, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent out a letter to all of its employees on February 2, according to a copy of the memo seen by Reuters.

The memo said the agency was continuing to process all applications and petitions for people inside the United States regardless of their country of origin. It also said all applications for permanent residency and adjustment of status can move forward.

USCIS said they could not discuss internal employee communications.

The Department of Homeland Security had earlier clarified, after some initial back-and-forth, that the order would not apply to green card holders. Also people from the seven countries who hold dual citizenship are allowed to enter the United States on the passport of a non-restricted nation when eligible, according to February 2 guidance posted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection's website.

Related news:

> More U.S. states challenge Trump's immigration orders

> Trump fires top government lawyer for defiance on immigration order

 
 
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