WASHINGTON • United States authorities yesterday moved swiftly to lift a travel ban imposed on citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries after a Seattle court suspended President Donald Trump's executive order, even as the President denounced the judge who gave the ruling.
"We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas," a US State Department spokesman said, adding that some 60,000 travel visas had been revoked in compliance with the President's executive order.
"Those individuals with visas that were not physically cancelled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid."
The official said that the Trump administration was "working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and our legal teams" pending a full review of a complaint filed by Washington state's attorney-general, one of several legal challenges to the travel ban.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a separate statement wrote: "In accordance with the judge's ruling, DHS has suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections of the executive order." It added: "DHS personnel will resume inspection of travellers in accordance with standard policy and procedure."
Who is Judge James Robart?
He is a federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, appointed in 2004 by then President George W. Bush.
He made headlines last August when he said "black lives matter" during the hearing of a lawsuit demanding that the Seattle Police Department adopt changes, The Seattle Times reported.
In that case, the Department of Justice alleged that the Seattle police resorted to excessive force and biased policing, and there were concerns that certain practices could have a disparate impact on minority communities.
Judge Robart called for major changes to the police department that included streamlined appeals of officer discipline and internal investigations conducted by civilians rather than sworn officers, said The Seattle Times.
He has done extensive community service, working with at-risk and special needs youth, according to CNN. He has also represented refugees during his career.
The ruling gave hope to some Middle East travellers, but left them unclear about how long the new travel window would last. The Trump administration could again block the travellers if it wins an emergency stay.
Qatar Airways was the first to say it would allow passengers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to fly to US cities if they had valid documents. Air France, Spain's Iberia, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Germany's Lufthansa all followed suit after the federal judge's ruling, which the White House said it planned to appeal against as soon as possible.
The White House said in a statement on Friday: "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."
The White House later issued a revised statement removing the word "outrageous".
Mr Trump yesterday hit out at Judge James Robart's ruling on Twitter. "When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security - big trouble!" he wrote in one post.
In another, he wrote: "Interesting that certain Middle Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it's death & destruction!"
Judge Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, explicitly made his ruling apply across the country, while other judges in similar cases have so far issued orders concerning only specific individuals.
The challenge in Seattle was brought by Washington state and later joined by Minnesota.
ABOUT THE RESTRAINING ORDER
•Judge James Robart temporarily barred the US administration from enforcing two parts of President Donald Trump's order: its 90-day suspension of entry into the United States of people from the seven countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - and its limits on accepting refugees.
•He said no attacks had been carried out on US soil by individuals from the seven countries affected by the travel ban since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.
• The restraining order will remain valid nationwide pending a full review of a complaint by Washington Attorney-General Bob Ferguson. He had filed a suit claiming that the President's ban violated the constitutional rights of immigrants and their families, and specifically targeted Muslims.
•The ruling is not the first to challenge Mr Trump's travel ban, but it is the most sweeping as it effectively vacates the main tenets of the order.
•The White House can file an appeal against the ruling. The Justice Department can seek an emergency stay against the temporary restraining order.
The judge ruled that the states have legal standing to sue, which could help Democratic attorneys-general take on Mr Trump in court on issues beyond immigration.
Judge Robart said no attacks had been carried out on US soil by individuals from the seven countries affected by the ban. For Mr Trump's order to be constitutional, Judge Robart said it had to be "based in fact, as opposed to fiction".
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE-FRANCE-PRESSE