WASHINGTON/BEIRUT • A United States appeals court has denied a request from the Department of Justice to immediately restore an immigration order from President Donald Trump barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and temporarily banning refugees.
The court ruling dealt a further setback to Mr Trump, who has denounced the judge in Washington state who blocked his executive order last Friday. Mr Trump has insisted he will get the ban reinstated.
Mr Trump says the temporary immigration restrictions on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and all refugees, are needed to protect the US from militants. Critics say they are unjustified, and thousands worldwide protested against the ban.
The judge's order and the appeal ruling over the weekend have created possibly a short-lived chance for travellers from the seven affected countries to get into the US.
In a brief order, the appeals court said the government's request for an immediate stay on the Washington judge's decision had been denied. It was awaiting further submissions from Washington and Minnesota states yesterday, and from the government today.
Judge James Robart's ruling, said the appeal, poses immediate public harm, thwarts enforcement of an executive order and "second-guesses the President's national security judgment about the quantum of risk posed by the admission of certain classes of (non-citizens) and the best means of minimising that risk".
With the appeals court upholding the judge's ruling, the case could go to the Supreme Court, said some law experts. Law professor Peter Spiro at Temple University in Philadelphia said: "It could go very, very fast."
But for now, the Justice Department is operating without a permanent boss as Mr Jeff Sessions, Mr Trump's pick as US attorney-general, has yet to be confirmed.
Mr Trump's order has drawn criticism even from US allies and created chaos for thousands of people who have, in some cases, spent years seeking asylum in the US.
Iraqi Fuad Sharef, his wife and three children spent two years obtaining US visas and were to move to America last week, but were turned back to Iraq after a failed attempt to board a US-bound flight from Cairo.
Yesterday, the family checked in for a Turkish Airlines flight to New York from Istanbul. "Yeah, we are very excited. We are very happy," Mr Sharef told Reuters TV. "Finally, we have been cleared."
Ms Rana Shamasha, 32, an Iraqi refugee in Lebanon, was to travel to the US with her two sisters and mother on Feb 1 to join relatives in Detroit when their trip was cancelled as a result of the travel ban.
She is waiting to hear from United Nations officials. "If they tell me there is a plane tomorrow morning, I will go. If they tell me there is one in an hour, I will go," she told Reuters by phone in Beirut. "I no longer have a house here, work, or anything."
An official at Beirut airport said three Syrian families left for the US via Europe yesterday.
In his ruling last Friday, Judge Robart questioned the use of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US as a justification for the ban, saying no attacks had been carried out on US soil by individuals from the seven countries since then. The Justice Department appeal criticised his legal reasoning, saying it stepped on the President's authority as commander-in-chief.
The US State Department and Department of Homeland Security said they were complying with Judge Robart's order and many visitors were expected to start arriving from yesterday, while the government said it expects to begin admitting refugees again today.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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