Justice Department to challenge federal judge’s halt of travel ban

WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday night said the Justice Department will challenge a judge’s nationwide halt of President Donald Trump’s immigration order.

The Trump administration initially called the order “outrageous,” but minutes later, dropped that word in a second statement about the matter.

“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.”

A federal official told CNN DOJ lawyers were not expected to file an appeal Friday night.

The order by federal Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee who presides in Washington state, is a significant setback for Trump’s controversial travel ban and created another round of chaos nationwide over the policy’s legality. Friday evening, Customs and Border Protection alerted airlines it would begin reinstating visas quickly.

“The court concludes that the circumstances brought before it today are such that it must intervene to fulfill its constitutional role in our tripartite government,” Robart wrote in the order.

Trump’s executive order that he signed last week suspended immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, the US refugee program for 120 days and indefinitely halted Syrian refugees from entering the US.

“This is exactly what we were looking for,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper shortly after Robart’s order, adding that “we have a bucket of Constitutional claims.”

“It’s Keystone Cops, the way that thing (the order) was put together,” added Ferguson, who said he was prepared to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

This suit was brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota against the travel ban enacted by Trump’s executive order.

The sweeping ruling from the Seattle judge came just hours after a different ruling from a federal judge in Boston, who declined to renew a temporary restraining order in Massachusetts. That judge’s order was more limited than the Seattle ruling, as it only prohibited the detention or removal of foreign travelers legally authorized to come to the Boston area.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesman told CNN the agency will review the order and comply with all court orders. Asked for response, a Justice Department spokesperson would only say, “The department looks forward to reviewing the court’s written order and will determine next steps.”

The State Department is working with the Department of Homeland Security to determine the effect of the stay, a State Department official said.

Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, immediately hailed Robart’s order.

“This ruling is a victory for the Constitution and for all of us who believe this un-American executive order will not make us safer,” Schumer said in a statement. “President Trump should heed this ruling and he ought to back off and repeal the executive order once and for all.”

Visa complications

The seven affected Muslim-majority countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

CBP told major US airlines Friday night that the government is reinstating visas and is “back to business as usual” prior to the situation that was in place before last week’s executive order, an airline executive told CNN. Airlines are expected as soon as Friday night to start removing travel alerts from their websites and getting messages out to customers to alert them about the change.

It is possible there will be more court activity and an appeal before anyone could act on getting a visa, and it’s unclear how long it would take to obtain one.

US airlines use an automated system connected to the CBP database to scan passports and visas to get an instant determination if the passenger can board or not. Unless the government reinstates visas and the airlines get a “board” status, the airlines still will not allow such passengers to board.