Judge issues broad block against Trump’s travel ban – Politico
President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order suffered its most severe legal blow to date Friday, as a federal judge in Seattle blocked the impact of the directive nationwide.
U.S. District Court Judge James Robart ruled in favor of the attorneys general of Washington state and Minnesota on a lawsuit they brought seeking to overturn the order limiting travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
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The ruling prompted a typically combative reaction from the Trump White House Friday night, but in a departure from recent patterns, the most confrontational language was quickly dialed back.
“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,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a written statement. “The presidentâs order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
Spicer’s statement was reissued about 10 minutes later to remove the word “outrageous.” No explanation was given for the modification, but such intemperate language toward the judge’s order could have landed government lawyers in hot water.
The temporary ruling from Robart, an appointee of President George W. Bush, appeared to be the most sweeping legal rebuke to the order since Trump issued it a week ago.
“Judge Robartâs decision, effective immediately, effective now, puts a halt to President Trumpâs unconstitutional and unlawful executive order. It puts a stop to it immediately, nationwide,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson told reporters. âWhat the judge announced today was nationwide; the presidentâs executive order does not apply.”
Ferguson said the ruling also nullifies the impact of the order on people seeking to travel to the U.S.
“That relief is significant, to put it mildly,” Ferguson said.
The judge ruled from the bench and quickly followed up with a written order. It appears to shut down all significant aspects of Trump’s order that had immediate effect, including the suspension of entry into the U.S. of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, as well as the 120-day halt to refugee admissions, an indefinite stop to admission of refugees from Syria. The order also rejects Trump’s effort to give Christians in those countries priority in the refugee program.
“For purposes of the entry of this TRO, the court finds that the states have met their burden of demonstrating that they face immediate and irreparable injury as a result of the signing and implementation of the Executive Order,” Robart wrote. “The Executive Order adversely affects the states’ residents in the areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel.”
Much of Robart’s order appears modeled on litigation conservative states used to halt President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration. The judge finds, much as a district court and appeals court did in that suit, that states have standing to challenge federal immigration actions that affect their coffers.
“The States themselves are harmed by virtue of the damage that implementation of the Executive Order has inflicted on the operations and missions of their public universities and other institutions of higher learning, as well as injury to the States’ operations, tax bases and public funds,” Robart wrote.
The courtroom defeat for the Trump White House came just hours after Justice Department lawyers scored their first notable victory in the legal war over the executive order, persuading a judge in Boston to allow the expiration of a restraining order against the travel ban.
The 21-page decision from U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton was a preliminary one, but the White House is sure to tout the ruling as a counterpoint to the series of hostile decisions from Robart and other judges.
One of those early court orders was issued early Sunday by two of Gorton’s colleagues on the federal court in Boston, who imposed a nationwide ban on deportation and detention of travelers based on Trump’s order. Immigrant rights advocates wanted the seven-day temporary restraining order extended, but Gorton said such an extension was not warranted.
Gorton, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said Trump’s order was entitled to deferential review from the courts.
“The President has exercised his broad authority under [the law] to suspend entry of certain aliens purportedly in order to ensure that resources are available to review screening procedures and that adequate standards are in place to protect against terrorist attacks,” the judge wrote. “Such a justification is ‘facially legitimate and bona fide.'”
Asked for reaction to the Boston ruling, a Justice Department spokeswoman said the order speaks for itself.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on Fridayâs legal developments.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said in a statement, “This ruling is a victory for the Constitution and for all of us who believe this un-American executive order will not make us safer.”
Gorton ruled that Trump’s “order provides a reasonably conceivable state of facts [which concerns national security and] that could provide a rational basis for the classification,” the judge wrote. “Accordingly, this Court declines to encroach upon the ‘delicate policy judgment’ inherent in immigration decisions.”
The judge also appeared dismissive of arguments that the orderâfocused on citizens of seven majority-Muslim countriesâamounts to invidious religious discrimination. Refugee-related provisions in the order “could be invoked to give preferred refugee status to a Muslim individual in a country that is predominantly Christian,” wrote the judge, who is the brother of former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.). “Nothing in [that section] compels a finding that Christians are preferred to any other group.”
The Trump White House may have scored the singular legal win because one of the most controversial aspects of the executive orderâits impact on green-card holdersâhas now been effectively set to the side. The White House now says the order does not apply to such permanent residents at all. And a federal judge in Detroit issued a nationwide, permanent injunction Thursday barring any impact from the order on green card holders.
Gorton says in his ruling that, in his view, Trump’s order never applied to green-card holders, despite the fact that more than 100 of them were detained for a time in the first day after the order was signed and that the Trump administration initially set up a waiver system to allow green card holders into the country under the order.
At least one other federal court also held a hearing Friday on Trump’s travel ban. Complaining that the directive was not well vetted and had unleashed “chaos,” a federal judge in Alexandria, Va. extended an order barring certain deportations from Dulles Airport and guaranteeing green-card holders arriving there access to lawyers.
An unusual provision in the Boston order requiring U.S. officials to notify airlines that individuals with valid visas would be admitted to the U.S. led to Boston’s Logan Airport becoming an entry point of choice for some travelers affected by Trump’s order. A dozen or so Iranian citizens arrived in Boston on a Lufthansa flight Friday afternoon after that airline said it would allow the boarding of passengers with U.S. visas that appeared to be valid. The U.S. government contends those visas were canceled last week, but the Iranians were allowed into the country by Customs and Border Protection officers.
As a result of Gorton’s ruling, the unusual access through Boston’s airport will likely go away, although if Robart’s decision sticks, travelers with what appear to be valid visas may find the welcome mat rolled out for them at every international airport in the country.