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Refugees, visa holders head for US after court decision

People from seven nations banned by President Donald Trump are racing to travel to the US after an appeals court rejected the government's motion to uphold the prohibition. However, the legal battles will continue.

The Trump administration is exploring its options after multiple courts rejected the new US president's blanket ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. Known for Twitter storms, Trump initially remained quiet following Sunday's decision, but Vice President Mike Pence made the administration's frustration known on the Sunday political talk shows.

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Trump’s travel ban remains suspended

"We will move very quickly," Pence told Fox News on Sunday. "We are going to win the arguments because we will take the steps necessary to protect the country, which the president of the United States has the authority to do." He told CBS that the ban is "fully consistent with statutory law that's been enacted by Congress."

Trump's January 27 executive order barred citizens of Syria, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Libya from travel to the United States for 90 days and suspended the US refugee programs for 120 days - and indefinitely for Syrians. Two days after Trump introduced the order, a court in Seattle stayed it, more courts followed, and the administration had yet another setback after the ruling from the appeals court.

The State Department announced that it had revoked about 60,000 visas as a result of Trump's order. The department advised aid agencies, however, that refugees set to travel to the United States before Trump signed his order could now do so.

USA Demonstration Unterstützer von Donald Trumps Einreisedekret in Los Angeles (Reuters/R. Chiu)

Protests for and against the US ban have taken place across the United States

'Our best interests'     

On Saturday, Trump unleashed a string of tweets defending his policy and attacking federal Judge James Robart, who blocked the ban nationwide on Friday pending a wider legal review. "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!" Trump wrote on Twitter, in a rare criticism of a judge by a sitting president.

"The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart," he wrote in another tweet. "Bad people are very happy!"

Some Republicans also expressed discomfort with how the president reacted to the situation.

"I think it is best not to single out judges for criticism," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "We all get disappointed from time to time at the outcome in courts on things that we care about. But I think it is best to avoid criticizing judges individually."

Trump's Justice Department argued that suspending the ban would cause "irreparable harm" to the US public. "The power to expel or exclude aliens is a fundamental sovereign attribute, delegated by Congress to the executive branch of government and largely immune from judicial control," the government argued.

The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared to find little merit in that statement. The court requested that the attorneys general of states that opposed Trump's ban provide documents detailing their opposition before midnight California time on Sunday (0759 UTC Monday).

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees US borders, announced that it would cease implementing Trump's policy. 

mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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