Judge orders White House to list people excluded by Trump ban
A federal judge in Virginia ordered the White House to provide a list of all people stopped from entering the United States by a travel ban imposed last week on citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries by President Donald Trump.
The ruling came on a day that attorneys from four states were in courts challenging the executive order. The Trump administration justified the action on national security grounds, but opponents labeled it an unconstitutional targeting of people based on the religious beliefs.
The State Department said on Friday that less than 60,000 visas previously issued to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen had been invalidated as a result of the order. That disclosure followed media reports that government lawyers were citing a figure of 100,000.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia ordered the federal government to give the state a list by Thursday of “all persons who have been denied entry to or removed from the United States.”
At Boston’s Logan International Airport, at least four college students from Iran and Iraq who had previously been blocked from entering the United States by the order, arrived with new visas on Friday, according to a Reuters witness.
The new Republican president’s order signed on Jan. 27 triggered chaos at U.S. airports last weekend. Some travelers abroad were turned back from flights into the United States, crowds of hundreds of people packed into arrival areas to protest and legal objections were filed across the country.
The order also temporarily stopped the entry of all refugees into the country and indefinitely halted the settlement of Syrian refugees.
The state of Hawaii on Friday joined the challenge to the order, with officials saying they were suing to block enforcement of the travel ban. Federal judges in Boston and Seattle also were weighing arguments.
SKEPTICISM IN BOSTON
In Boston, a federal judge expressed skepticism about a civil rights group’s claim that Trump’s order represented religious discrimination.
Civil-rights advocates called on U.S. District Judge Nathan Gorton to extend a restraining order issued early on Sunday that for seven days blocks the detention or removal of approved refugees, visa holders, and legal permanent U.S. residents who entered from the seven countries.
“Where does it say Muslim countries?” Gorton asked Matthew Segal, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU.
Segal responded, “If your honor’s question is, ‘Does the word ‘Muslim’ make a profound presence in this executive order?,’ my answer is that it doesn’t. But the president described what he was going to do as a Muslim ban and then he proceeded to carry it out.”
Gorton shot back, “Am I to take the words of an executive at any point before or after election as a part of that executive order?”
Gorton asked U.S. Justice Department lawyer Joshua Press how the seven countries had been selected.
Press said the list had come from a law passed in 2015 and amended early last year requiring that citizens of those countries apply for visas to enter the United States, “out of concern about the refugees that were coming, mainly from Syria at that time and terrorist events that were occurring in Europe.”
Trump has told a Christian broadcaster that Syrian Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status.
In Seattle, the states of Washington and Minnesota were together asking a judge to suspend the entire policy nationwide, which would represent the broadest ruling to date against Trump’s directive.
Should the Seattle judge rule that Washington state and Minnesota have legal standing to sue, it could help Democratic attorneys general take on Trump in court on issues beyond immigration.
(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Brian Snyder in Boston and Lawrence Hurley, Lesley Wroughton and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Jonathan Oatis)