President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries was blocked by a federal judge who imposed a nationwide hold on the executive order that had sparked protests across the country.
Federal Judge James Robart ruled against government lawyers’ claims that US states did not have the standing to challenge Mr Trump’s executive order, blocking the ban.
Despite the ruling it is not yet clear what happens next for people who had waited years to receive visas to come to America, however an internal email circulated among Homeland Security officials told employees to comply with the ruling immediately.
About 60,000 people from the affected countries had their visas cancelled by the State Department.
The judge’s order was a victory for Washington and Minnesota, which had challenged Trump’s directive. U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order, ruling the states had standing and said they showed their case was likely to succeed.
“The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury,” Robart said.
Trump’s order had caused widespread confusion at airports as some travellers were detained. The White House has argued that it will make the country safer.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer released a statement late Friday saying the government “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, a revised statement was sent out 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.
Washington became the first state to sue over the order that temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and suspends the U.S. refugee program globally.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the travel ban significantly harms residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the lawsuit two days later.
After the ruling, Ferguson said people from the affected countries can now apply for entry to the U.S.
“Judge Robart’s decision, effective immediately puts a halt to President Trump’s unconstitutional and unlawful executive order,” Ferguson said. “The law is a powerful thing - it has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States.”
The judge’s ruling could be appealed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The judge’s written order said it’s not the court’s job to “create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches” of government.
The court’s role “is limited to ensuring that the actions taken by the other two branches comport with our country’s laws.”
Robart said federal defendants “and their respective officers, agents, servants, employees, attorneys and persons acting in concert or participation with them are hereby enjoined and restrained from” enforcing the executive order.
A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is under litigation, said Friday: “We are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and our legal teams to determine how this affects our operations. We will announce any changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available.”
Federal attorneys had argued that Congress gave the president authority to make decisions on national security and immigrant entry.
Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and the travel ban was an effort to make good on that campaign promise,
Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft have all stated that the ban is hurting their operations, too.