Judge issues temporary halt on President Trump’s immigrant deportation order

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order he said would impose tighter vetting to prevent foreign terrorists from entering the United States at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S.
U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order he said would impose tighter vetting to prevent foreign terrorists from entering the United States at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S.

A U.S. judge has issued a temporary halt to the deportation of visa holders or refugees stranded at airports after President Donald Trump issued an order barring entry to them for 90 days.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a case in response to the order issued on Friday.

It estimates that 100-200 people are being held at airports or in transit.

Thousands of people have been protesting at US airports over Mr Trump’s clampdown on immigration.

His executive order halted the entire US refugee programme and also instituted a 90-day travel ban for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Those who were already mid-flight were detained on arrival, even if they held valid US visas or other immigration permits.

On Saturday, amid protests and court challenges, Mr Trump told reporters: “It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

The ruling from federal Judge Ann Donnelly, in New York, prevented the removal from the U.S. of people with approved refugee applications, valid visas, and “other individuals… legally authorised to enter the United States”.

The emergency ruling also said there was a risk of “substantial and irreparable injury” to those affected.

Her ruling is not on the constitutionality of Mr Trump’s executive order. What will happen to those still held at airports remains unclear.

In its response, the Department of Homeland Security said it would continue to enforce the measures that on Saturday had affected “less than 1% of the more than 325,000 international air travellers who arrive every day”.

It added that the US government “retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety”.

The case was brought early on Saturday on behalf of two Iraqi men detained at JFK Airport in New York.

One worked for the U.S. military in Iraq. The other is married to a former U.S. military contract employee.

Both have now been released. Another court hearing is set for February.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted the outcome of the ruling.

Lee Gelernt, deputy legal director of the Immigrants Rights Project, who argued the case in court said that some people had been threatened with being “put back on a plane” later on Saturday.

Mr Gelernt also said the judge had ordered the government to provide a list of names of those detained under the order.

Judges elsewhere in the U.S. have also ruled on the issue:

In Boston, a judge decided two Iranian nationals, professors at the University of Massachusetts, should be released from detention at Logan International Airport

An order issued in Virginia banned, for seven days, the deportation of green card holders held at Dulles Airport and ordered the authorities to allow access to lawyers

A Seattle judge issued an emergency stay of removal from the U.S. for two people

Criticism of Mr Trump’s decision has been growing louder outside the U.S.

Iran is threatening a reciprocal ban on US citizens entering the country.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany issued a statement saying “even the necessary, determined fight against terrorism does not justify placing people of a certain origin or belief under general suspicion”.

A spokesperson for UK PM Theresa May said she “did not agree” with the restrictions, and French independent presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “I stand with the people fleeing war and persecution”.

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