Travel ban in disarray as airlines told they can board barred passengers reports

Seattle judge temporarily halts Trumps travel ban after hearing arguments it unlawfully discriminated against Muslims and caused unreasonable harm

Customs officials have reportedly told US airlines that they can board passengers who had been barred from entering the country after a federal judge in Seattle ordered a temporary halt on Donald Trumps travel ban for refugees and people from seven predominantly-Muslim nations.

District judge James Robart granted a temporary restraining order on Friday after hearing arguments from Washington state and Minnesota that the presidents order had unlawfully discriminated against Muslims and caused unreasonable harm.

It was not immediately clear whether authorities would comply with the broad order, especially after officials reacted in confusion a week earlier, detaining valid visa holders and arguing with lawyers.

Late on Friday, the White House released a statement saying that it would seek an emergency stay against Robarts ruling; an earlier request for a stay by a justice department attorney had been denied by the judge.

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. The presidents order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people, press secretary Sean Spicer said. In a second updated statement, the White House removed the word outrageous.

The justice department later said it would not immediately file for an emergency stay, at least on Friday night, and reports said Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had informed US airlines that they should board travelers who had been barred by an executive order last week.

CBP did not reply to repeated questions seeking more information, and a duty officer who answered a phone call referred questions to headquarters.

At San Franciscos international airport, the duty manager said officials there had received no instructions from the government so far. Were just waiting to find out how the laws changing and morphing, the manager said. People are just coming and going. Were hoping it works out well for everyone.

Seattle judge temporarily blocks Trumps travel ban

Washington states attorney general, Bob Ferguson, hailed the decision as an important victory against the White House.

We are a nation of laws. Not even the president can violate the constitution, Ferguson told reporters outside the courtroom. No one is above the law, not even the president.

This decision shuts down the executive order immediately, shuts it down, he added. That relief is immediate, happens right now. Thats the bottom line.

In a statement, the state department said it did not immediately know how to comply. We are working closely with the Dept of Homeland Security and our legal teams to determine how this affects our operations.A DHS spokeswoman said that the agency would not comment: As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation.

In his order, Robart wrote that the states had shown immediate and irreparable injury caused by Trumps order.

The executive order adversely affects the states residents in areas of employments, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel, he wrote. He then issued nationwide restraining stops to several sections of Trumps executive order: its 90-day ban on visa-holders from seven nations, its indefinite ban on Syrian refugee admissions, and its 120-day ban on the entire refugee program.

The work of the court is not to create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches, Robart wrote. The work of the judiciary, and this court, is limited to ensuring that the actions taken by the other two branches comport with our countrys laws, and more importantly, our constitution.

Volunteer immigration attorneys offer to help as people gathered at LAX on 31 January to protest against the travel ban. Photograph: Monica Almeida/Reuters

The judge insisted that his ruling was narrow about whether certain actions by the president were cause for a restraining order but concluded that the circumstances brought before [the court] today are such that it must intervene to fulfill its constitutional role in our tripart government.

Trumps order, which was signed a week ago, threw airports into chaos over whether to detain or deport travelers. Last Saturday, federal judges in Brooklyn, Boston and other cities ordered the government to temporarily halt deportations of valid visa holders. Several courts are expected to rule on whether the order is constitutional later this month.

Travel ban

Also on Friday, a federal judge in Boston declined to extend a temporary restraining order that allowed some immigrants into the US from countries affected by Trumps three-month ban.

US district judge Nathaniel Gorton expressed skepticism during oral arguments about a civil rights groups claim that Trumps order represented religious discrimination.

Robarts order represents the first major challenge to the Trump administration, which is expected to appeal to a higher courtHis ruling does not permanently overturn the presidents order, nor does it rule on its longer-term directives to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Last week, after judges ordered Customs and Border Protection officials to stop deporting travelers with valid visas, enforcement remained confused for days. The Department of Homeland Security said that its officials would comply with court orders, but attorneys said that rogue agents continued to detain and even coerce detained travelers into signing away green cards.

In court, Washington solicitor general Noah Purcell called the White Houses arguments frightening, arguing that they cloaked everything under a veil of national security concerns. The government had argued, he said: If the president says, Im doing this for national security, then the court cannot review that thats a reasonable reason. Our view is thats not the law.

Ferguson conceded that Congress had given the president broad powers to make national security and immigration decisions, but maintained that the order was unconstitutional discrimination. Robart pressed the government hard, however, on the presidents preference for Christian refugees and why the seven nations had been singled out when no citizens of those countries had committed terrorist acts in the US since September 11 2001.

Robart, who was appointed by George W Bush and confirmed by the Senate 99-0, said it seemed like a bit of a reach to say the president is anti-Islam based on his comments during the 2016 campaign but also questioned the justice departments argument that states do not have standing to sue. He noted, for instance, that University of Washington students and faculty had been blocked from the school. Is that not a direct financial harm? the judge asked.

The Washington-based businesses of Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft joined the states efforts to stop the order.

Elsewhere in the US, a district judge in Virginia ordered the White House to provide a list of names of all persons who have been denied entry to or removed from the United States a total that tops at least 60,000 people, according to the state department.

Additional reporting from agencies.

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