A U.S. judge has temporarily blocked President Donald Trump's ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries after Washington state and Minnesota urged a nationwide hold on the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.
U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle granted the two states a temporary restraining order Friday while the court considers the lawsuit, which aims to permanently block Trump's order.
"The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury," Robart said. "This TRO (temporary restraining order) is granted on a nationwide basis ..."
Lawyers for the U.S. government argued that the states don't have standing to challenge the order and said Congress gave the president authority to make decisions on national security and admitting immigrants.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued, the first state challenging the president's order, saying the order is causing significant harm to residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the suit this week.
“The Constitution prevailed today,” Ferguson said after the ruling. “The law is a powerful thing — it has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States."
Washington Solicitor General Noah Purcell added that the Trump administration's argument that the president has unfettered discretion on immigrant entry is "not the law. It's a scary view of the law."
White House spokesman Sean Spicer called the order "outrageous" in a statement released late Friday and said the DOJ plans to file an emergency stay to defend the president's executive action. Soon after, the White House sent out a new statement that removed the word "outrageous."
"The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people," the statement from the Office of the Press Secretary said.
Trump responded to the judge's ruling on Twitter Saturday morning, writing he's confident it will be overturned.
"The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!" Trump wrote.
The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.
A Department of Homeland Security official tells NBC News, the judge's order will have no immediate practical effect because all preciously issued visas from the seven affected countries were canceled by last week's executive order. Travelers with passports from those countries hoping to come to the U.S. would have to reapply for a visa, the officials said.
Trump's order, issued last Friday, temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. It also temporarily halts the U.S. refugee program.
Legal battles played out across the U.S. this week as opponents of the president’s travel ban took their fight to the courtroom. Hearings were also being held Friday in Virginia and Massachusetts.
A federal Judge in Boston refused to extend a temporary injunction against the travel ban.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton late Friday declined to renew an order prohibiting the detention or removal of persons as part of Trump's executive order on refugees and immigrants.
That means a seven-day, temporary injunction granted Jan. 29 will expire as scheduled Sunday.
In a hearing in Alexandria Friday, a federal judge allowed Virginia to join a lawsuit challenging President Trump's travel ban, transforming a case that had been focused on a narrow sliver of those affected to a battle that could affect the rights of tens of thousands of would-be immigrants and visitors.
Erez Reuveni, a lawyer with the Justice Department's Office of Immigration Litigation, urged U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to keep the lawsuit focused only on lawful permanent residents, who were the subject of the initial lawsuit. Virginia sought to intervene in the case and expand it to include other people traveling to the U.S. on visas.
Brinkema asked Reuveni how many people were affected by the executive order. He said the number of cases involving lawful permanent residents is very small. But including all visas covered by the order, he said, "over 100,000 visas have been revoked." He did not provide details.
"I think you could almost hear the collective gasp in the courtroom when the government attorney stated that number," Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center said at a press conference after the hearing, according to NBC News.
The State Department disputed the government lawyer's number, claiming less than 60,000 individuals' visas were "provisionally revoked" to comply with the order. Will Cocks, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, clarified the figure after the court hearing.
"Fewer than 60,000 individuals' visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the executive order," Cocks said. "We recognize that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the executive order. To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and nonimmigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas."
Brinkema questioned the logic of that. "People who've already got permission (to enter the country on visas), why should that not be honored?" she asked.
She said she was pleased that the government seemed to be willing to accommodate some of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit on a case-by-case basis, but said that would ultimately be insufficient. She also acknowledged that the executive branch has "almost unfettered discretion" in setting immigration policy, but not absolute discretion. She suggested existing visa holders wanting to travel to the U.S. could have valid cases, but that new applicants might not be successful in bringing a challenge.
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, said after the hearing that "there is no legal justification to cancel all these visas."
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Detroit says U.S. green-card holders shouldn't be affected by the order.
The Arab-American Civil Rights League argued in a suit filed this week in Detroit's U.S. District Court that the executive action is unconstitutional and targets immigrant communities.
A restraining order released Friday from U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts covers legal permanent residents, not some others that also are part of the lawsuit. She says lawyers for the government clarified to her that the ban doesn't apply to "lawful" permanent residents.
A Brooklyn judge on Thursday extended a temporary restraining order to Feb. 21, but the Justice Department said it will ask her to throw out the case.
U.S. District Judge Carol Amon's ruling extended a stay that had been issued Saturday by a different judge and would have expired Feb. 11. Amon extended the order to give more time the government and civil liberties organizations to file paperwork.
Three California university students are challenging the travel ban. Their federal suit, filed Thursday in San Francisco, says the ban is unconstitutional and has created hardships for the students.
It alleges that a freshman at Stanford University now can't visit her husband in Yemen; another Yemeni at San Diego's Grossmont College can't resume studies there; and an unidentified University of California Berkeley doctoral candidate from Iran fears losing a job opportunity.
Meanwhile, Hawaii joined a growing number of states suing the federal government to block Trump's travel ban, filing a lawsuit in federal court in Honolulu on Friday.
Attorney General Doug Chin says Trump's executive order keeps Hawaii families apart and keeps residents from traveling. He says it degrades values Hawaii has worked hard to protect.
Chin says the order also will make foreign travelers feel unwelcome, which is a problem for Hawaii's tourism-powered economy.