WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington issued the furthest reaching order yet against President Trump's refugee and travel ban executive order, granting a nationwide order halting enforcement of both visa and refugee provisions of the order.
"The court concludes that the circumstances that brought it here today are such that we must intervene to fulfill the judiciary’s constitutional role in our tri-part government," US District Judge James Robart said at the end of Friday's hearing. "Therefore, the court concludes that entry of the above-described [temporary restraining order] is necessary, and the State’s motion is hereby granted."
In a written order that followed a few hours later, Robart wrote, "This TRO is granted on a nationwide basis and prohibits enforcement of Sections 3(c), 5(a), 5(b), 5(c), and 5(e) of the Executive Order." Section 3 of the order lays out the ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries; section 5 lays out the temporary shutdown of the refugee program and the indefinite shutdown of the Syrian refugee program.
"The decision shuts down the executive order immediately," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news conference outside the courthouse after Robart issued the ruling in the lawsuit, brought by Ferguson on behalf of the state.
"No one is above the law — not even the President," Ferguson said.
On Saturday, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security announced that they had officially stopped complying with the Executive Order.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that Robart's ruling was "another stinging rejection of President Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban."
Trump, however, called the decision "big trouble" and said it would be overturned.
"When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in and out, especially for reasons of safety and security - big trouble!" he posted on Twitter. "Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it's death and destruction!
"The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!"
"What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?" he tweeted later on Saturday afternoon.
The White House announced it would seek to end the injunction as soon as possible so the executive order could continue to be enforced.
"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 statement. "The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people."
Eleven minutes after sending out the initial statement, the White House updated the statement to remove the word "outrageous."
Robart, nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush, also ordered the parties to propose a briefing schedule on the preliminary injunction request by 5 p.m. Monday.
"The Department looks forward to reviewing the court's written order and will determine next steps," Justice Department spokesperson Nicole Navas told BuzzFeed News prior to the issuance of Robart's order.
MASSACHUSETTS: The ruling came shortly after a federal judge in Massachusetts provided the Trump administration with its first win in the many challenges to the president's executive order temporarily halting the refugee program and stopping immigration by people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton issued the order declining to renew the temporary restraining order previously issued by another judge in the federal court in Massachusetts who heard the challenge to Trump's ban this past weekend.
The ruling in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts was the second order of the day on the issue — one week after President Trump signed the measure.
VIRGINIA: The first order of the day came when, earlier Friday, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia extended an order providing access to lawyers and preventing the deportation of lawful permanent residents from Dulles International Airport.
Additionally, Brinkema ordered the federal government to provide Virginia — who successfully sought to intervene in the case — with a list of all people who have been denied entry or deported since the executive order was signed who had a residence in Virginia and lawful permanent residence status or a valid immigrant, student, or work visa. The list must be turned over by Feb. 9.
In the course of the hearing, the Justice Department also put a number on the number of visas affected by the temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority nations: 100,000. The number would represent approximately 1% of all visas issued by the US in a given year.
The State Department, however, pushed back on that claim, saying the number is only 60,000.
Brinkema, who noted that she handled cases relating to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said in court Friday that she had never seen a public outpouring like the one she has seen in response to the executive order.
"This order touched something in the United States that I have never seen before," she said.
The president has broad discretion to act on immigration matters, Brinkema noted, but "it's not unfettered." Not all of the thought that should have gone into the executive order did, she added.
During the hearing, Brinkema also held that Virginia could intervene in the case, over the objection of the Justice Department. The move means the lawsuit could continue even if the Justice Department resolves the claims brought by the individual plaintiffs who initially brought the case.
Although Virginia had questioned whether the attempt to settle claims with the named plaintiffs was an attempt to keep Virginia from joining the lawsuit, Erez Reuveni, a senior litigation counsel in the Office of Immigration Litigation at the Justice Department, pushed back against that, saying, "We will meet Virginia in court, I have no doubt about that," and later adding, "We are not trying to run and hide."
In court on Friday, Reuveni said about 100,000 visas had been revoked in the wake of the president's issuance of the executive order; an earlier State Department memo said that they had been "provisionally revoked."
In a statement later Friday, Will Cocks, the spokesperson for the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs reiterated the "provisional" revocation — and disputed the Justice Department's number.
"Fewer than 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the Executive Order. We recognize that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the Executive Order," Cocks said in a statement. "To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas."
A State Department official followed up, noting that the number was based on the number of valid visas issued to applicants on record as being a national of one of the seven countries. The provisional revocation, the official continued, means that the State Department has invalidated a visa for use to travel to the United States and apply for entry, but remains free to restore the visa's validity later without the person needing to submit a new visa application. The revocation does not, however, have any impact on the legal status of those already in the United States, the official said.
Near the end of the Friday morning hearing, Brinkema said it was a "real problem" when people were vetted by the US government and authorized to come to the United States, only to have that authorization revoked without fact-finding and hard evidence that there was a need to do so.
"It has obviously thrown hundreds of thousands of people into states of discomfort," she said.
In response to Virginia's request that federal officials show that they were following Brinkema's initial order, the judge said that she was troubled by accusations regarding denial of counsel but would hold off for now on taking any action on the request.
In a later order from the court, Brinkema denied the request, formally a motion for an order to show cause.
Read the order in the Washington case:
Read the order in the Massachusetts case:
Read the order in the Virginia case:
Zoe Tillman is a reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Zoe Tillman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at email@example.com.
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