WASHINGTON — A federal judge issued an emergency order Saturday night temporarily barring the United States from deporting people from nations subject to President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
U.S. District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly in Brooklyn issued the emergency order after lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union filed a court petition on behalf of people from seven predominantly Muslim nations who were detained at airports across the country as the ban took effect.
The order barred U.S. border agents from removing anyone who arrived in the United States with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also covered anyone with an approved refugee application.
It was unclear how quickly the order might affect people in detention.
“These are all people that have been through a vetting process,” Donnelly said during the hearing, and noted that some had applied to come to the United States in 2014. “Our own government presumably approved their entry into this country.”
She added, “There’s no question about them being dangerous or anything like that.”
The judge pressed the government’s lawyers for information about people caught in the travel-ban limbo — their number estimated at 100 to 200 nationwide.
“This has unfolded with such speed that we haven’t had an opportunity to address any of the issues, the legal issues, or the status of anyone who may be at the airport,” said Susan Riley, chief of the civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District, referring to those at Kennedy Airport.
“Get them a list of people who are detained, all right?” Donnelly said, directing the government lawyers to give the information to the ACLU and other parties who had requested the stay.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, a judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the deportation of permanent U.S. residents who arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia also ruled that the detained passengers must be given access to an attorney.
Under Trump’s order, it had appeared that an untold number of foreign-born U.S. residents now traveling outside the United States could be stuck overseas for at least 90 days, even though they held permanent residency “green cards” or other visas.
However, an official with the Department of Homeland Security said last night that no green-card holders from the seven countries cited in Trump’s order had been prevented from entering the United States.
Some foreign nationals who were allowed to board flights before the order was signed Friday had been detained at U.S. airports, told they were no longer welcome.
The DHS official who briefed reporters by phone said 109 people who were in transit on airplanes had been denied entry and 173 had not been allowed to get on their planes overseas.
Trump billed his sweeping executive order as a necessary step to stop “radical Islamic terrorists” from coming to the United States. Included is a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program.
Trump’s order singled out Syrians for the most aggressive ban, indefinitely blocking entry for anyone from that country, including those fleeing civil war.
The directive did not do anything to prevent attacks from homegrown extremists who were already in America, a primary concern of federal law enforcement officials. It also omitted Saudi Arabia, home to most of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
As a candidate Trump pledged to temporarily ban Muslims from coming to the United States, then said he would implement “extreme vetting” for people from countries with significant terror concerns.
“It’s working out very nicely,” Trump said of the implementation of his order. “We’re going to have a very, very strict ban and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.”
U.S. lawmakers and officials around the globe criticized the move. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said while Trump is right to focus on border security, the order is “too broad.”
“If we send a signal to the Middle East that the U.S. sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion,” Sasse said. “Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.”
In Tehran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran would stop issuing new visas to U.S. citizens in response to Trump’s ban, but that anyone already with a visa to Iran wouldn’t be turned away.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to say that refugees were welcome in Canada, “regardless of your faith.”
Trump’s order also directed U.S. officials to review information as needed to fully vet foreigners asking to come to the United States and draft a list of countries that don’t provide that information.
That left open the possibility that citizens of other countries could also face a travel ban.
With Matthew Chayes
and Tribune News Service