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Judge Temporarily Blocks Enforcement of Trump’s Travel Ban

[Updated (2/5/2017, 10:38 a.m.) with an appellate court's rejection of the government's request for an immediate stay of the judge's ruling.]

A federal judge in Seattle on Friday temporarily blocked President Trump’s week-old executive order that halted travel to the United States by all visitors, including students and those with valid visas, from seven largely Muslim countries, and by virtually all refugees worldwide.

On Saturday the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would halt enforcement of the president’s order, but noted that it was doing so temporarily and that the government intended to file for an emergency stay of the Seattle judge’s ruling.

The Justice Department filed that request to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit later Saturday. Early Sunday the court denied the request for an immediate stay, before it could hear arguments from each side. Instead, it set a briefing schedule, asking people who challenge the travel ban to file their motions by 2:59 a.m., Eastern time, on Monday, and the Justice Department to file its response by 6 p.m.

It’s unclear whether students and scholars stranded overseas will be among those who use Friday’s ruling, by Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court in Seattle, to try to return. The ruling offers little clarity to colleges, which have largely been advising the 17,000 affected students now on American campuses not to leave the country.

Judge Robart’s ruling barred the Trump administration from enforcing two parts of the 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.

Other courts around the country have also halted aspects of Mr. Trump’s ban on travel from the seven countries, but according to numerous news outlets, Judge Robart’s order is the most far-reaching to date.

Earlier Friday, however, another federal judge issued a ruling that sided with the Trump administration. In a case that appeared to be more narrowly drawn than the ruling in Seattle, Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton of the U.S. District Court in Boston refused to extend a temporary stay on the president’s ban in Boston, saying the government’s arguments would probably prevail on the grounds that the president has broad authority over the nation’s immigration laws.

The Seattle ruling drew a quick response from the Trump administration. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a written statement on Friday night that the Justice Department would file for an emergency stay of the order “at the earliest possible time.”

In a tweet early Saturday, Mr. Trump belittled Judge Robart and called his ruling “ridiculous.”

Civil-liberties lawyers hailed Judge Robart’s ruling as a victory, but were also wary that the relief it provided was temporary.

Jorge Barón, director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, told The Seattle Times that he was advising people who have been stranded outside the United States because of the ban to use Judge Robart’s ruling to try to return. But he also cautioned that it’s a very fluid situation.

“You might get on a plane and there might be a different ruling in the middle; we warn people that there’s a chance of that happening,” Mr. Barón told the newspaper. “At the same time, I’d also want to make sure that people who are trying to be reunified with their families are taking advantage of this ruling.”

[This article includes information from The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Politico, Reuters, and The Seattle Times.]

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