US judge temporarily blocks Trump's travel ban nationwide

2017-02-04 07:14
A travel ban protester in Seattle. (Ted S Warren, AP)

A travel ban protester in Seattle. (Ted S Warren, AP)

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Seattle - A US judge on Friday imposed a nationwide hold on President Donald Trump's ban on travellers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, siding with two states that had challenged the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.

US District Judge James Robart in Seattle ruled that Washington state and Minnesota had standing to challenge Trump's order, which government lawyers disputed, and said they showed their case was likely to succeed. About 60 000 people from the affected countries had their visas cancelled.

"The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury," Robart said. "This TRO (temporary restraining order) is granted on a nationwide basis ..."

It wasn't immediately 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.

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer released a statement late on 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.

Trump's order last week sparked protests nationwide and confusion at airports as some travelers were detained. The White House has argued that it will make the country safer.

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 US refugee programme.

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."

Gillian M Christensen, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation. The judge's ruling could be appealed the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judge's written order, released late on Friday, 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 job "is limited to ensuring that the actions taken by the other two branches comport with our country's laws".

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