US judge temporarily blocks Trump’s controversial travel ban

Published February 4th, 2017 - 08:00 GMT
New Yorkers turn out for Yemeni rally against Trump's immigration ban. (AFP/File)
New Yorkers turn out for Yemeni rally against Trump's immigration ban. (AFP/File)

A US federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked President Donald Trump's order banning refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country, in a major blow to the new administration.

US District Judge James Robart in Seattle granted Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson's request to immediately halt Trump's order on a nationwide basis, ruling that it could otherwise cause "irreparable harm."

Robart, who was nominated to the court by Republican president George W Bush also said the state was likely to prove its underlying lawsuit that the order was unconstitutional.

“The constitution prevailed today,” said Ferguson, a Democrat who was the first state attorney general to challenge the ban. “No one is above the law — not even the president.”

"This is a tremendous victory for the state of Washington," Governor Jay Inslee tweeted. "We should feel heartened by today’s victory and more resolute than ever that we are fighting on the right side of history."

The White House said it would fight the ruling, describing the order as "lawful and appropriate" and "intended to protect the homeland."

In an earlier version of the statement, the White House described the ruling as "outrageous," however the word was omitted from a second version.

Ferguson filed his challenge on Monday, three days after Trump signed his order, which suspended the US refugee programme and travel from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, as well as indefinitely banning Syrian refugees from the country.

The state of Minnesota - like Washington, a Democrat-run state - later joined the suit. Other challenges to Trump's order have been filed all around the country including by the states of New York, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Last week a judge in New York ruled that those who had already arrived in the country or were in transit - and who had a valid visa - could remain.

However, in a victory for Trump, a Boston judge earlier Friday ruled against extending a temporary halt to the order set to expire on Sunday in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe.

Confusion abounded late Friday about the competing rulings, though it appeared the Seattle ruling superceded the Boston ruling.

The State Department on Friday said that 60,000 visas had been revoked following Trump's order, after media reports quoted government lawyers as saying that more than 100,000 people had been affected.

In his complaint, Ferguson said the travel ban was separating families, harming thousands of residents and "undermining both states’ sovereign interest in remaining a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees."

He also said it was damaging the economy, and included declarations from companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia, which said their workforces were dependent on immigrants and that the order would restrict their businesses.

Just over 7,000 Washington residents came from the seven countries named in Trump's ban, according to Ferguson's filing.

He cited several examples of families being kept apart by the ban, including the case of a Syrian family recently resettled in Seattle and who had been expecting the arrival of an older child next week.

Another example was that of an Iraqi-born software engineer for Facebook, who was watching his brother in a school play in Canada when he received a call from his lawyer shortly before the ban took effect telling him to rush back across the border.

The order signed by Trump last week has brought condemnation from around the world and led to scenes of chaos at airports and triggered mass protests.

But Trump has defended his order, and denied that it was a "Muslim ban."

"Everybody is arguing whether or not it is a BAN. Call it what you want, it is about keeping bad people (with bad intentions) out of country!" he tweeted on Wednesday.

On Friday he tweeted, "We must keep "evil" out of our country!"

© 2021 dpa GmbH

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