A Seattle federal judge on Friday ordered a temporary, nationwide halt to U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, in the most severe legal blow to the controversial measure.
The restraining order issued by Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart is valid nationwide pending a full review of a complaint filed by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to invalidate key provisions of Trump’s executive order which bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocks citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entry into the U.S. for 90 days. Refugees from countries other than Syria are barred from entry for 120 days.
“The constitution prevailed today,” Ferguson said, describing the judge’s decision as historic. “No one is above the law — not even the president.”
“It is not the loudest voice that prevails in a courtroom, it’s the constitution,” he added, pointing out that Robart was appointed by Republican president George W. Bush.
Following the judge’s decision, Air France said on Saturday it had reopened U.S.-bound flights to passengers affected by Trump’s ban.
“Starting today we are implementing this court decision,” Air France spokesman Herve Erschler said. “Nationals from the countries concerned are being authorized to fly once again to the United States, providing their papers and visas are in order.”
Gulf carrier Qatar Airways also said it will allow passengers barred from the U.S. as a result of the ban to resume boarding U.S.-bound flights.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has advised Qatar Airways it can board travelers from the seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees who had been banned under the order, according to a statement on the airline’s website.
But the White House quickly hit back at the federal court’s suspension of the ban, making clear it was ready for a drawn-out battle. It initially denounced the decision as “outrageous” but later removed the word from its statement.
“At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file (for) an emergency stay of this order and defend the executive order of the president, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” a statement said.
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
The White House argues the ban is aimed at preventing terror attacks. Critics, however, say Trump’s immigration freeze is arbitrary.
Friday’s ruling was not the first to challenge the ban, but it was the most sweeping as it effectively vacated the main tenets of the order.
Ferguson said the order technically means that anyone with a valid visa must be allowed entry into the country by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
But it was unclear whether the Trump administration would succeed in challenging it, leaving travelers in limbo over their legal status.
The State Department said Friday that up to 60,000 people from the seven targeted countries had their visas canceled as a result of the order. A Justice Department attorney, however, told a court hearing in Virginia that about 100,000 visas had been revoked.
Trump’s executive order created chaos at airports across the United States and beyond as some travelers were detained or deported, prompting an uproar by rights groups and immigration attorneys.
Several hundred people of all ages and backgrounds demonstrated in New York for a second consecutive evening on Friday, denouncing Trump’s travel ban. They staged their rally in Queens, the New York borough where the president was born.