US President Trump has criticized a judge's ruling that blocked his order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations. Airlines including Lufthansa have started allowing visa-holders to board flights to the US.
US President Donald Trump lashed out on Saturday at Federal District Judge James Robart, referring to him as a "so-called judge" on Twitter and accusing him of interfering with the controversial immigration ban that took "law-enforcement away from our country."
Trump's order designed to temporarily suspend the US refugee program as well as all travel from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen attracted a great deal of criticism from both within the United States and abroad. At least 60,000 visas had been revoked following Trump's order, according to the US State Department.
Later on Saturday, however, US media reported that the State Department said it would reverse the revocation of visas and that visas that had not been manually canceled would be valid.
The US Department of Homeland Security also reported that it was not advising airlines to keep valid US visa-holders from flying to the United States.
The White House pledged that it would fight the Seattle ruling, describing the divisive order as "lawful and appropriate" and "intended to protect the homeland."
Leading Democrats hailed the travel ban suspension, with Nancy Pelosi calling it a "victory for our values, our security and our Constitution."
The back-and-forth over whether people can travel to the United States had led to chaotic situations at US airports and check-in gates around the world. Thousands of Somali refugees set to resettle in the US have also been affected.
Airlines give green light to passengers
While the legal consequences of the reversal of the travel ban remain to be seen, practical ramifications took hold immediately. Several international airlines started to allow travelers hit by the ban to board flights to the United States again, including Lufthansa, Swiss Airways, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Egypt Air.
"Egypt Air has received a notice from JFK Airport in New York that President Donald Trump's ban on citizens of Yemen, Iraq, Libyan, Somali, Sudan and Iran has been suspended," an official source at Cairo airport told the German DPA news agency.
Germany's Lufthansa underscored that travelers "holding a valid immigrant or non-immigrant visa for the US are again allowed to travel to the USA," in a statement on its website.
Lufthansa cautioned that "short notice changes to the immigration regulations may occur at any time."
Authorities and embassies were all still left in the lurch about what the reversal could imply. An internal email circulated among Homeland Security officials reportedly told employees to comply with the judge's ruling. However, the US Embassy in Baghdad said that they were still awaiting further direction on guidelines regarding visas.
Checks and balances in the spotlight
Judge Robart had accepted Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson's request to put a halt on Trump's executive order on a nationwide basis, saying that it could cause "irreparable harm" to the US. In his written order released late Friday, Robart said it wasn't the court's job to "create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches," but instead, to ensure that executive or legislative branches and their rulings were in line "with our country's laws."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer decried Trump's attack on Robart, saying it shows the president's "disdain" for an independent judiciary that doesn't bend to his orders.
Robart, who had been nominated to the court by Republican former President George W. Bush in 2003 and was confirmed by the Senate in 2004, said the state's case was likely to succeed. While several cases have been brought against the president's order, Ferguson was the first attorney general of a US state to challenge it, saying that "no one is above the law - not even the president."
Washington-based businesses Amazon and Microsoft gave their support to the legal challenge, saying that the ban was hurting their operations.
White House Spokesman Sean Spicer released a statement immediately after the overturning of the ban, saying that the government would "file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate."
Shortly afterward, a revised statement was sent out that had the word "outrageous" removed. This led to Trump attacking "The New York Times" on Twitter, which did not correct the later omission from its reporting, saying that by doing so, the highly esteemed daily newspaper had demonstrated that it was "lost" and "fake news" - a term originally introduced to describe media outlets that had featured false reports and exaggerated claims - often in order to drum up support for Trump's presidential campaign.
Ongoing legal dispute
Earlier in the week, acting US Attorney General Sally Yates had told the Justice Department that Trump's travel ban should not be enforced, whereupon Trump dismissed her, saying that she had "betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States."
Trump also replaced Yates with Dana Boente, the United States attorney general for the eastern district of Virginia. The legal dispute is likely to continue, as Trump is eager to make good on his chief campaign promises to put more stringent controls on who is permitted to enter the United States.
rs, ss/sms (AP, dpa)