(Adds White House comment on appeal)
By Dan Levine and Scott Malone
SEATTLE/BOSTON Feb 3 A federal judge on Friday
put a nationwide block on U.S. President Donald Trump's week-old
executive order temporarily barring refugees and nationals from
seven countries from entering the United States.
The Seattle judge's temporary restraining order represents a
major setback for Trump's action, although his administration
could still have the policy put back into effect with an appeal.
The White House said late on Friday it believed the ban to
be "lawful and appropriate" and said the U.S. Department of
Justice would file an emergency motion to stop the judge's order
Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, made his
ruling effective immediately on Friday, suggesting that travel
restrictions could be lifted straight away.
Shortly after the ruling, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
told airlines to board travelers affected by the ban. The U.S.
State Department is working with the Department of Homeland
Security to work out how Friday's ruling affects its operations,
a spokesman told Reuters, and will announce any changes
affecting travelers as soon as information is available.
Robart's ruling followed an earlier decision by a federal
judge in Boston declining to extend a temporary restraining
order allowing some immigrants into the United States from
countries affected by Trump's three-month ban.
The Seattle judge's ruling takes effect because it
considered the broad constitutionality of Trump's order. Robart
also explicitly made his ruling apply across the country, while
other judges facing similar cases have so far issued orders
concerning only specific individuals.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee celebrated the decision as a
victory for the state, adding: "no person - not even the
president - is above the law."
The state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said: "This
decision shuts down the executive order right now." He said he
expected the federal government to honor the ruling.
The challenge in Seattle court was brought by the state of
Washington and later joined by the state of Minnesota. The judge
ruled that the states have legal standing to sue, which could
help Democratic attorneys general take on Trump in court on
issues beyond immigration.
Washington's case was based on claims that the state had
suffered harm from the travel ban, for example students and
faculty at state-funded universities being stranded overseas.
Trump's Jan. 27 order caused chaos at airports across the
United States last week as some citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya,
Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were denied entry.
Judge Robart probed a Justice Department lawyer on the
"litany of harms" suffered by Washington state's universities,
and also questioned the administration's use of the Sept. 11,
2001 attacks on the United States as a justification for the
Robart said no attacks had been carried out on U.S. soil by
individuals from the seven countries affected by the travel ban
since that assault. For Trump's order to be constitutional,
Robart said, it had to be "based in fact, as opposed to
The judge's decision was welcomed by groups protesting the
"This order demonstrates that federal judges throughout the
country are seeing the serious constitutional problems with this
order," said Nicholas Espiritu, a staff attorney at the National
Immigration Law Center.
Eric Ferrero, Amnesty International USA spokesman, lauded
the short-term relief provided by the order but added: "Congress
must step in and block this unlawful ban for good."
FOUR STATES IN COURT
The decision came on a day that attorneys from four states
were in courts challenging Trump's executive order. The Trump
administration justified the action on national security
grounds, but opponents labeled it an unconstitutional order
targeting people based on religious beliefs.
In Boston, U.S. District Judge Nathan Gorton expressed
skepticism during oral arguments about a civil rights group's
claim that Trump's order represented religious discrimination,
before declining to extend the restraining order.
The State Department said on Friday that fewer than 60,000
visas previously issued to citizens of the seven affected
countries had been invalidated as a result of the order. That
disclosure followed media reports that government lawyers were
citing a figure of 100,000.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia
ordered the federal government to give the state a list by
Thursday of "all persons who have been denied entry to or
removed from the United States."
The state of Hawaii on Friday also filed a lawsuit alleging
that the order is unconstitutional and asking the court to block
the order across the country.
Trump's directive also temporarily stopped the entry of all
refugees into the country and indefinitely halted the settlement
of Syrian refugees.
(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Brian
Snyder in Boston and Lawrence Hurley, Lesley Wroughton and Susan
Heavey in Washington; Writing by Jonathan Weber and Kristina
Cooke; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Rigby)