WASHINGTON: The White House is preparing to fight for President Donald Trump’s immigration order after a federal judge on Friday halted it nationwide. A chaotic night set up the nation for a second straight weekend of widespread uncertainty over the controversial ban, this time with the administration on defense. Federal Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee who presides in Washington state, temporarily stopped the order. US Customs and Border Protection then alerted airlines the US government would quickly begin reinstating visas that were previously canceled, and CBP advised airlines that refugees that are in possession of US visas will be admitted as well, an airline executive said. But the White House quickly countered, first calling the order “outrageous” and then dropping that word minutes later in a second statement. “At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement. “The President’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
Trump’s executive order that he signed last week suspended immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, the US refugee program for 120 days and indefinitely halted Syrian refugees from entering the US. The ruling may have stung even more for the Trump administration because it came on the heels of its first legal victory over the travel ban. Hours earlier, a federal judge in Boston issued a more limited ruling that declined to renew a temporary restraining order in Massachusetts, which would have prohibited the detention or removal of foreign travelers legally authorized to come to the Boston area. But it was the sweeping Seattle ruling that had the federal government scrambling. “This is exactly what we were looking for,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told shortly after Robart’s order, adding that “we have a bucket of constitutional claims.”
“It’s Keystone Cops, the way that thing (the order) was put together,” added Ferguson, who said he was prepared to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. This suit was brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota against the travel ban enacted by Trump’s executive order. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman told the agency will review the order and comply with all court orders. The State Department is working with the Department of Homeland Security to determine the effect of the stay, a State Department official said. Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, immediately hailed Robart’s order. “This ruling is a victory for the Constitution and for all of us who believe this un-American executive order will not make us safer,” Schumer said in a statement. “President Trump should heed this ruling and he ought to back off and repeal the executive order once and for all.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim civil rights organization, welcomed the ruling. “Because the Trump administration is vowing to appeal the ruling, CAIR is urging travelers to consider immediately contacting relevant airlines to inquire about rebooking their flights, with the recognition that the situation remains fluid,” the group said in a statement on Saturday.
The seven affected Muslim-majority countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. CBP told major US airlines Friday night that the government is reinstating visas and is “back to business as usual” prior to the situation that was in place before last week’s executive order, the airline executive told. Airlines are expected as soon as Friday night to start removing travel alerts from their websites and getting messages out to customers to alert them about the change. It is possible there will be more court activity and an appeal before anyone could act on getting a visa, and it’s unclear how long it would take to obtain one. US airlines use an automated system connected to the CBP database to scan passports and visas to get an instant determination if the passenger can board or not. Unless the government reinstates visas and the airlines get a “board” status, the airlines still would not allow such passengers to board. Daniel Smith, an immigration attorney in Seattle, predicted a “flood of people trying to enter the US over the next few days” due to the legal opening. Airlines are adjusting to the new development. On Saturday, Qatar Airways announced that it will allow nationals from the seven countries affected by Trump’s travel ban and all refugees presenting a valid, unexpired US visa or green card to travel to the United States. “I am advising clients who are in the country now — don’t leave,” Smith said. “And any clients wanting to enter the country, it’s best if you try to get in right now and then stay put if you get here.”