Justice Dept. files appeal notice after judge's order blocking immigration ban

Restraining order halts immigration order

President Trump has formally asked a federal court to overturn a Seattle judge’s injunction halting his travel ban, after a day in which he criticized the judge’s ruling as “ridiculous” and a “terrible decision.”

In a short notice of appeal filed Saturday evening, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson formally notified the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals of their intention. The filing contains no legal arguments; those are expected to come later.

The appeal filing was the latest in a series of twists, most of which were chronicled on Twitter by Trump, that saw federal officials dismantle the ban Saturday after a judge blocked it.

That judge, U.S. District Senior Judge James Robart, sitting in Seattle, issued the temporary restraining order Friday night that immediately lifted the ban.

Trump first blasted the ruling by the "so-called judge," tweeting that his opinion "essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!" Even before the president's comments, the White House said the federal government would challenge the decision. ACLU officials promised to oppose the president's newest effort, which is also opposed by 16 state attorneys general.

Shortly before he was to attend a Red Cross ball at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, Trump piled on the judge on Twitter again: “The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!"

The executive order signed by Trump on Jan. 27 had suspended the entry of all refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, halted admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely and barred entry for three months to residents from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Following Robart's ruling, the State Department said it was restoring tens of thousands of canceled visas for foreigners while the Department of Homeland Security "suspended all actions" for enforcing the ban and instead began standard inspection of travelers.

More: Judge grants restraining order against Trump's immigration order

Protests over the ban again erupted in several cities in the U.S. and abroad, including New York and Los Angeles, even after the ruling. Several thousand people demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in London and near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

At airports across the U.S., attorneys and immigration supporters set up makeshift legal offices and gathered to greet inbound immigrants.

The ACLU and other advocacy groups had been working to extend a temporary stay on the order issued last week after it sparked chaos and protests at airports across the country. On Saturday, such groups were urging travelers caught in limbo to act quickly.

"We encourage all U.S. visa holders who have been affected by the order to travel to the United States as soon as possible, while the stay is in place," said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project in New York.

Clare Kane, a law student intern at the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School, noting the Trump administration vowed to appeal the ruling, said "people should get on planes as soon as possible to reunite with their families, to access potentially life-saving healthcare, to flee life-threatening situations abroad, or to come home to their lives in the United States.”

With legal challenges pending, two prominent Middle Eastern air carriers, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, said U.S.-bound travelers from those countries with valid visas would be allowed to board.  Air France, British Airways, Egyptair, Emirates Airlines, KLM, and Lufthansa also notified affected passengers about the change.

Government-backed Qatar Airways is one of a few Mideast airlines operating direct daily flights to multiple American cities. Its U.S. destinations from its Doha hub include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington.

Royal Jordanian was also resuming flights to the U.S. from the seven countries targeted by the Trump ban as long as people present valid visas or green cards.

In Kenya, about 140 Somali refugees whose resettlement in the United States this week was stopped by the travel ban have been sent back to their refugee camp instead, one of the refugees said Saturday.

It was not clear why they were returned a day after a U.S. court order blocked Trump’s ban on travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Somalia. Officials with the International Organization for Migration, which runs the transit center in Nairobi where the refugees had been waiting for their flights to the U.S., could not be reached for comment.

“How would you feel? One day you are telling friends bye, wishing them well, and the next you are back where you started,” 28-year-old Nadir Hassan told The Associated Press by phone from the camp. “My home for 27 years was a refugee camp. I was hoping to start a new life in the U.S., get an education, a job, a life. We feel bad.”

He had been on a waiting list to leave for about a decade, he said.

In issuing his decision, Robart sided with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed a suit to block key provisions of the president's executive order, which sought to block people from seven majority-Muslim countries, or any refugees, from entering the country.

Robart's ruling sets up a judicial process that appears to favor immigration rights groups and other opponents to the ban at every potential stage of the process, from his own court to the liberal U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit all the way up to the Supreme Court, currently divided 4-4 as it awaits confirmation hearings on a new nominee.

Still, Justice Department attorneys defending the executive order are likely to highlight the president’s broad legal authority to restrict entry of immigrants when deemed in the national interest of the United States, citing congressional authority in the Immigration and Nationality Act. In this case, the federal attorneys could argue the purpose of the executive order is “intended to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals.”

Amnesty International applauded Robart's ruling, but called for further action.

"This decision is a short-term relief for thousands of people whose lives have been upended, but Congress must step in and block this unlawful ban for good," organization spokesman Eric Ferrero said in a statement.

Lee Gelernt, the lawyer who successfully argued for the stay against Trump's ban in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., last week said Robart's decision shows that courts will stand up to the president.

"The courts have and will continue to recognize that this executive order favors Christians and disfavors Muslims and that is antithetical to American values and flatly inconsistent with the United States Constitution."

Contributing: Melanie Eversley, Associated Press

© 2017 KGW-TV


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