A federal judge on Friday put a nationwide block on US President Donald Trump’s week-old executive order temporarily barring refugees and nationals from seven countries from entering the United States.
The Seattle judge’s temporary restraining order represents a major setback for Trump’s action, although his administration could still have the policy put back into effect with an appeal.
The White House said late on Friday it believed the ban to be “lawful and appropriate” and said the US Department of Justice would file an emergency motion to stop the judge’s order taking effect.
The ruling by US District Judge James Robart in Seattle is the most comprehensive legal admonishment of Trump’s January 27 executive order prohibiting immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria and four other nations from entering the US for 90 days. Judges in Brooklyn, New York, Los Angeles and Alexandria, Virginia, have issued orders that are less sweeping.
“It is not the loudest voice that prevails on the Constitution,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said outside the courthouse. “We are a nation of laws, not even the president can violate the Constitution.”
Shortly after the ruling, US Customs and Border Protection told airlines to board travellers affected by the ban. The US State Department is working with the Department of Homeland Security to work out how Friday’s ruling affects its operations, a spokesman said, and will announce any changes affecting travellers as soon as information is available.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer released a statement late Friday saying they “will file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate.” Soon after, the White House sent out a new statement that removed the word “outrageous”.
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” the statement said.
Robart’s ruling followed an earlier decision by a federal judge in Boston declining to extend a temporary restraining order allowing some immigrants into the United States from countries affected by Trump’s three-month ban.
The Seattle judge’s ruling takes effect because it considered the broad constitutionality of Trump’s order. Robart also explicitly made his ruling apply across the country, while other judges facing similar cases have so far issued orders concerning only specific individuals.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee celebrated the decision as a victory for the state, adding: “no person – not even the president – is above the law.”
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 challenge in Seattle court was brought by the state of Washington and later joined by the state of Minnesota. The 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.
Trump’s edict, signed without advance notice, threw airports across America into turmoil as travellers from the affected countries who were already en route to the US learned upon landing that they couldn’t leave the airport. Some of those people were lawful US residents holding green cards and work visas. Some travellers were required to return to their points of origin, generating spontaneous protests at international terminals.
The US has provisionally revoked tens of thousands of visas of people from the seven countries, which also include Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. A provisional revocation means the US has invalidated a visa for use to travel to the US, the state department said. The US may restore the visa’s validity later without requiring a new application.
Trump has argued the order is needed to protect Americans from terrorists. He tweeted on Friday, after referring to an attack by a knife-wielding man at the Louvre museum in Paris, “We must keep evil out of our country!”
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 labelled it an unconstitutional order targeting people based on religious beliefs.
Earlier on Friday in Virginia, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema extended to February 10 a temporary restraining order barring the federal government from enforcing the president’s ban as it might apply to legal permanent US residents. The judge deferred ruling on state Attorney General Mark Herring’s request that she issue an order requiring the Trump administration to account for what the Democrat contends was a failure to immediately obey court orders putting the measure on hold.
Also on Friday, Hawaii’s Doug Chin became the sixth state attorney general to sue or support lawsuits seeking to block Trump’s order.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg, Associated Press
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