By Miraim Raftery
Photo courtesy ECM news partner 10 News : Among the first to gain entry was an Iranian infant in need of heart surgery.
February 4, 2017 (San Diego) – Travelers barred from entering the U.S. due to President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive order issued on January 27th must now be admitted due to a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robard on Friday.
The court issued a nationwide halt to the entire executive order, though the Trump administration has said it will appeal the ruling. The ruling applies to refugees previously approved for admission to the U.S., as well as citizens of seven Muslim nations including Syrians. It also requires admission of green card holders with visas.
The State Department has estimated the number of visas revoked by Trump's order at 60,000, though Homeland Security told the court up to 100,000 may have been revoked.
The order did not address people whose visas were cancelled, nor is it clear yet what will happen to those previously deported under the order.
The ruling is being hailed by Lee Gelernt, senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “It’s a tremendous ruling that recognizes that the president is not above the Constitution and that the executive order has serious legal problems,” he said, the Boston Globe reports.
President Trump took to Twitter to blast the ruling, tweeting, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
Judge Robard was appointed in 2004 by Republican President George W. Bush.
Incoming travelers, for now, will still be screened using the procedures in place before Trump’s order.
The order had left families separated, refugees fleeing persecution in limbo, and stranded even legal residents including doctors, children being admitted for medical treatment, scientists, an Academy Award nominee, an Olympic athlete, and more.
The order barring refugees has been criticized as particularly without justification, given that since September 11, 2001, out of 800,000 refugees admitted to the U.S., not a single one has committed an act of terror, an International Rescue Committee spokesman told East County Magazine in an interview aired on KNSJ.
Following the judge’s ruling, the State Department issue a statement indicating previously banned travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S.
“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas,” the State Dept. indicated. “Those individuals with visas that wree not physically canceled may not travel if the visa is otherwise valid,” the Washington Post reports.
Today, many of those travelers began arriving at airports across the U.S. Advocates for refugees and green card travelers outside the U.S. are urging them to book flights here as soon as possible.
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee ADC Legal and Policy Director Abed Ayoub states, ""The temporary restraining order out of the federal court in Seattle is an emphatic decision exposing the constitutional gaps and perspective violations in the Arab and Muslim Ban Executive Order. It forecasts a long fight in the courts and potentially the Supreme Court."
Ayoub offers this advice to travelers who were previously banned. " As a result of the decision, individuals with valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas should be permitted to travel to the U.S. Prior to traveling please consult with the airlines to ensure you will be able to board the flight. Those traveling to the U.S. should know that the DOJ has indicated that it will file an emergency appeal of the decision. Reversal of the decision will result in the ban being reinstated."
The Trump administration can appeal to a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If it loses there, it could ask the Supreme Court to decide the case. Judge Anthony Kennedy is empowered to hear emergency appeals from the 9th Circuit, though with high-profile cases, customarily the full Supreme Court would hear the case.
The nation’s highest court is currently divided with four liberal and four conservative justices since the death of Justice Antony Scalia. Trump has nominated conservative Neil Gorsuch but the nomination is expected to face stiff opposition, particularly since Republicans refused to consider any nominee of Barack Obama’s for the high court during the entire last year of his presidency.
Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) praised the judge’s ruling for protecting democratic values in a press release sent to media, adding that the State Department made the right decision to obey the judge’s ruling by reinstating visas that were revoked.
“This administration is learning the hard way that we are living in a democracy with a robust system of check and balances. Many decent and law-abiding people are suffering as a result,” she said, adding that the president’s order undermines the fight against terror by providing a recruiting tool to America’s enemies. “I once again call on this President to rescind his immoral and unconstitutional executive order and urge him to work within the law and the Constitution,” she said, adding that she will continue efforts in Congress to repeal it.
Judges in several other cities had heard challenges on more narrow grounds and previously issued rulings blocking portions of the orders pertaining to green card holders. A Virginia judge has also ordered the White House to provide a list of names of all perseons denied entry to or removed from the U.S.
The Seattle judicial ruling is the broadest to date. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who argued the case for the state, concluded, the Guardian reports, “We are a nation of laws; not even the president can violate the Constitution. Judge Robart did the right thing in declaring this unconstitutional.”