Borders Reopen To Banned Visa Holders; Trump Attacks Judge

The White House said it would direct the Justice Department to allow continued enforcement of President Trump’s immigration order.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump mounted a harsh personal attack on a Seattle judge who temporarily blocked the order.

By Mark Landler

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A day after a federal judge temporarily blocked President Trump’s immigration order, the nation’s borders were open on Saturday to visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries. But there was confusion at airports around the world as the White House vowed to quickly seek an emergency stay of the ruling.

On another day of chaotic developments over the week-old order, the State Department reversed its cancellation of visas for people from the affected countries, small numbers of travelers began venturing to airports to try to fly to the United States, and Mr. Trump mounted a harsh personal attack on the judge.

In an early-morning Twitter post from his waterfront Florida resort, where he is spending the first getaway weekend of his presidency, Mr. Trump wrote, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

On Friday night, the White House said it would direct the Justice Department to file for an emergency stay of the ruling, by Judge James Robart of Federal District Court in Seattle, that would allow continued enforcement of the president’s order.

Judge Robart, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, declared in his order that “there’s no support” for the administration’s argument that “we have to protect the U.S. from individuals” from the affected countries, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya.

Airlines, citing American customs officials, were telling passengers from the seven countries that their visas were once again valid. Those carriers, however, have yet to report an uptick in travel, and there appeared to be no rush to airports by visa holders in Europe and the Middle East intent on making their way to the United States before the ruling could be stayed.

Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ national carrier, said in a statement: “Following advice received today from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection unit at Abu Dhabi Airport, the airline will again be accepting nationals from the seven countries named last week.” Other Arab carriers, including Qatar Airways, issued similar statements.

But elsewhere, officials were being more cautious, advising travelers to wait for further clarity. The American Embassy in Baghdad said it was waiting for additional guidance from Washington. “We don’t know what the effect will be, but we’re working to get more information,” the embassy told The Associated Press in a statement.

The Department of Homeland Security said it had suspended implementation of the order, including procedures to flag travelers from the countries designated in Mr. Trump’s order. It said it would resume standard inspection procedures. But in a statement, the department defended the order as “lawful and appropriate.”

The White House appeared determined to have Judge Robart’s ruling struck down swiftly. In his first statement on the matter on Friday evening, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, described the judge’s action as “outrageous.” Minutes later, the White House issued a new statement deleting the word outrageous.

Mr. Trump’s Twitter post showed no such restraint. It recalled the attacks he made during the presidential campaign on a federal district judge in California who was presiding over a class-action lawsuit involving Trump University.

Until now, Mr. Trump had been comparatively restrained about the multiple federal judges who have ruled against parts of his immigration order, even as he staunchly defended its legality. Some analysts had speculated that he did not want a repeat of the storm during the campaign when he accused Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of having a conflict of interest in the Trump University case because the judge’s family was of Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump, who had painted Mexicans as rapists and criminals, settled that case after the election.

But on Saturday, Mr. Trump let loose, declaring in another Twitter post, “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!”

And in a third message, he asserted, without evidence, that some Middle Eastern countries supported the immigration order. “Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban,” he wrote. “They know that if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!”

The case that led to the injunction against the immigration order was filed on Monday by Washington State, and it was assigned to Judge Robart that day. He asked for briefs on whether the state had standing to sue, with the last one due on Thursday. On Wednesday, Minnesota joined the suit.

On Friday evening, after a hearing, Judge Robart issued a temporary restraining order, saying it was required to maintain the status quo as the case moved forward. He found that the states and their citizens had been injured by Mr. Trump’s order.

“The executive order adversely affects the states’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel,” Judge Robart wrote. He said the states had been hurt because the order affected their public universities and their tax base.

The judge also barred the administration from enforcing its limits on accepting refugees, including “any action that prioritizes the refugee claims of certain religious minorities.”

The next question at the trial court level will be whether Judge Robart will make the temporary restraining order more permanent by issuing a preliminary injunction. He ordered the parties to propose a briefing schedule on that question by Monday.

Justice Department appellate lawyers were reviewing the judge’s order. The department would not comment Saturday on the timing of an emergency appeal.

An appeal would most likely go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which includes the Seattle district where Judge Robart sits. Federal judges in other jurisdictions around the country have issued more limited rulings that temporarily struck down parts of the order, though a federal judge in Boston on Friday upheld it.

While large crowds had yet to materialize at airports, there were individual stories of people trying to enter the country.

Nael Zaino, 32, a Syrian who had tried unsuccessfully for nearly a week to fly to the United States to join his wife and American-born son, was allowed to board a flight from Istanbul and then Frankfurt late Friday. He was due to arrive in Boston on Saturday.

If the American authorities let Mr. Zaino in, he will be among the first to enter the United States since the executive order went into effect. His advocates had sought a waiver for him from the State Department, citing family reunification. “Mine must be a very special case,” Mr. Zaino said by phone from Istanbul.

It was, in a sense. But it was also a case of good fortune. As his advocates were pressing the State Department for a waiver, the federal judge in Washington State issued his order.

The Washington State case, filed by the state’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, alleged sweeping damages to the state’s economy and communities, but declined to name any individual residents as plaintiffs, as had been the case in the narrower previous cases.

The state made no secret of its intentions with the suit: Mr. Ferguson said that it was intended to neuter Mr. Trump’s order. Standing beside Gov. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat, Mr. Ferguson said his goal was “invalidating the president’s unlawful action nationwide.”

The White House order, the Washington State complaint said, “is separating Washington families, harming thousands of Washington residents, damaging Washington’s economy, hurting Washington-based companies, and undermining Washington’s sovereign interest in remaining a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees.”

Mr. Ferguson phoned several other Democratic attorneys general before filing suit and throughout the week, though none immediately backed his litigation. On Thursday, the Minnesota attorney general, Lori Swanson, announced that her state would join Mr. Ferguson’s suit as a second plaintiff.

Multiple states that wanted to challenge the president’s order spent several days designing narrower legal strategies than Mr. Ferguson’s, worrying that such a broad attack might founder over questions of standing.

Rob McKenna, a former Washington State attorney general, likened Mr. Ferguson’s approach to the legal offensive that Republican state attorneys general mounted against the Affordable Care Act under President Barack Obama.

Mr. McKenna, who is a Republican, said before the judge’s ruling that Mr. Ferguson’s action reflected the more confrontational role state legal officers have played in recent years.

“I think he has a steep hill to climb, to overcome the president’s constitutional and statutory authority to control immigration,” Mr. McKenna said. “But it raises valid questions.”

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