U.S. judges in at least four states blocked federal authorities from enforcing President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
However, lawyers representing people covered by the order on Sunday said some authorities were unwilling to follow the judges’ rulings.
Judges in Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington state, each home to international airports, issued their rulings after a similar order was issued on Saturday night by U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in New York’s Brooklyn borough.
Donnelly had ruled in a lawsuit by two men from Iraq being held at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
While none of the rulings struck down Friday’s executive order by the new Republican president, the growing number of them could complicate the administration’s effort to enforce it.
Trump’s order halted immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and stopped the resettlement of refugees for 120 days.
He said these actions were needed “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”
Condemnation of the order was swift and broad-based. Democratic politicians and civil rights groups weighed in, as well as U.S. allies who view the actions as discriminatory and divisive.
Attorneys general from California, New York, 13 other states and Washington, D.C., meanwhile, in a statement condemned what they called Trump’s “dangerous” and “unconstitutional” order, and pledged to use their offices to fight it.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Sunday said it “will comply with judicial orders,” while enforcing Trump’s order in a manner that ensures those entering the United States “do not pose a threat to our country or the American people.”
SAFE, NOT SORRY
Striking that balance has caused confusion, according to lawyers who worked overnight and on Sunday to help confused international travelers at airports.
Immigration lawyer Sharifa Abbasi said some Border Patrol agents at Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia refused to permit lawyers to talk with detainees, even after being shown an order from U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema requiring such access.
Abbasi said the agents instead told the lawyers to call their agency’s office, where no one was answering.
“There is really no method to this madness,” Becca Heller, director of the New York-based International Refugee Assistance Project organization, told reporters on a conference call.
Supporters of Trump’s order said authorities acted properly in swiftly taking steps to enforce it.
“It is better (to) be safe than sorry,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the conservative Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.
Lawsuits brought on behalf of more than 100 individual travelers have been filed nationwide, some activists and lawyers have estimated. Some have been brought by large corporate firms, including Kirkland & Ellis and Mayer Brown.
CURBS ON TRUMP’S ORDER
In Boston, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs on Sunday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the removal of two Iranians who have taught at the University of Massachusetts, and had been detained at the city’s Logan International Airport.
That order was set to last seven days, and appeared to go further than Donnelly’s by barring officials from detaining, as well as removing, approved refugees, visa holders and permanent U.S. residents entering from the seven countries. Donnelly’s order forbade only removal.
Matthew Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, in a statement called Burroughs’ ruling “a huge victory for justice” in the face of what he called Trump’s “unconstitutional ban on Muslims.” The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion.
Burroughs’ ruling has even prompted some Trump critics to urge green card holders to fly into Boston rather than other airports, to lessen the risk of detainment. Green cards allow foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump’s order “doesn’t affect green card holders moving forward.”
The ruling from Brinkema, in Alexandria, Virginia, barred the Homeland Security agency from removing an estimated 50 to 60 legal permanent residents who had been detained at Dulles.
In Seattle, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly barred the government from removing two people, who were not named in court papers. He scheduled a Feb. 3 hearing on whether to lift that stay.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Nate Raymond and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung, Dan Levine and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)