Two judges temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s administration from enforcing parts of his order to halt immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries, after a day in which students, refugees and dual citizens were stuck overseas or detained and some businesses warned employees from those countries not to risk leaving the U.S.
A nationwide ruling in Brooklyn, New York, barring refugees and visa holders already legally in the U.S. from being turned back came hours after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued to halt the Jan 27 order.
A separate order in Alexandria, Virginia, forbid the government from removing about 60 legal permanent residents of the U.S. who were being detained at Dulles International Airport.
Neither ruling strikes down the executive order, which will now be subject to court hearings. White House officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Saturday.
The Department of Homeland Security, which runs the Customs and Border Protection agency, said in a statement Sunday that it would comply with judicial orders and that the government retained the right to revoke visas for reasons of national or public safety.
There were wrenching scenes — and angry protests — at major airports across the country before the court orders were issued. At Los Angeles International Airport, a lawyer reported that an 80-year-old insulin-dependent visitor was being held by officials and had no contact with her worried family.
Shane Moss, a 38-year-old from Missouri, was returning from Thailand with his girlfriend, a dietitian and joint Canadian-Iranian citizen with a valid work visa, when they were forced to separate. Hours later, he had not heard from her.
“They won’t tell me anything,” Moss said. “I’m worn out. I’ve been up for 20-something hours and we’ve still got to get home to Kansas City.”
At New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, thousands protested outside the international arrivals terminal chanting, “Let them in!” and “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”
Some business executives, especially in the technology sector, also expressed outrage. Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings posted on Facebook, “Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe.”
The executive order, issued on Friday, bars citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, from entering the U.S. for the next three months in an effort to stop terrorists and gain hold of the immigration system. White House officials told reporters, before the court orders were issued, that green card holders from those countries who found themselves abroad and trying to come back would be evaluated case by case. Last year there were nearly 32,000 immigrant visas issued in the U.S. to the seven affected countries.
The order also halts refugee resettlement to the U.S. for 120 days, and orders that refugee admissions for 2017 be cut to 50,000 from the planned limit of 110,000.
The ACLU and other groups filed the suit on behalf of two refugees barred entry at JFK, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an interpreter who had worked for the U.S. military in Iraq. He was later allowed to enter the country.
Trump Defends Order
Trump and his aides said those who opposed the order were overreacting and misinterpreting. “It’s not a Muslim ban,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office. “We were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over. It’s working out very nicely.”
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chamber’s senior Republican, asked Trump to modify his order, noting that many of his Mormon ancestors were refugees from religious persecution.
“I urge the new administration to move quickly to tailor its policy on visa issuance as narrowly as possible so that officials can protect our security needs while reducing unnecessary burdens on the vast majority of visa-seekers that present a promise—not a threat—to our nation,” he said in a statement.
Officials said the inconvenience was lamentable but minor compared with the risk of terrorists entering the country. The order, they said, had to be issued rapidly so that terror groups couldn’t prepare for it. That meant Americans were also caught flat-footed, though, including U.S. airlines which got no advance notice of the ban or briefings on how it should be implemented, people familiar with the matter said. If they permitted violators of the ban to board flights, they will have to send them back.
“The airlines are responsible for flying those people back, at the airlines’ expense,” noted Jay Sorensen, president of consultancy IdeaWorks Co. and a former Midwest Airlines executive. “Now what should the airlines do? Board this person or not? I suspect there’s nothing in the pipeline that’s preventing these people from being boarded in terms of exact procedures.”
At least a dozen people were being held at JFK, including 10 Iranians, Andre Segura, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said. Officials there agreed to release Darweesh, an interpreter who had worked for the U.S. military in Iraq, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, an Iraqi accountant who had been living in Sweden for more than a year while waiting to get access to the U.S. His wife and 7-year-old son are in Houston.
“Without having the pressure of the protesters, I would’ve been sent back,” to Iraq, he said in an interview through a translator.
The outcry from leaders abroad was swift. In a phone call with Trump on Saturday, French President Francois Hollande said defending democracy “requires observing fundamental principles,” among them welcoming refugees, according to a statement from Hollande’s office.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif promised reciprocal measures, though he said anyone with a valid visa would be welcomed “unlike the U.S.” The U.S. move “will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters,” Zarif wrote on Twitter. “Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault-lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks.”
Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said on a conference call that Trump’s move was causing “chaos within the community and at our borders.”
“This is a Muslim ban. It has nothing to do with national security. It has everything to do with Islamophobia and xenophobia,” Ayoub said.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google asked staffers who may be affected to return to the U.S. quickly, joining a growing number of technology executives voicing concerns over restrictions that could interfere with how they do business.
Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai criticized the move in a note to employees Friday, telling them that more than 100 company staff are affected. Microsoft Corp. said it’s in touch with 76 staffers from the seven countries identified in the executive order.
“It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” Pichai wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. “We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so.”
The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. sent a memo to employees advising them of the travel ban and outlining who may be affected. It said in part: “To be safe, we are advising for now that all who are not U.S. citizens and who were born in one of these countries not depart the U.S. as you may not be able to get back in for at least another 90 days. For those who are currently outside of the U.S. — we urge you to try to return immediately as you may not be readmitted.”
The comments underscore a growing rift between the Trump administration and several large U.S. companies, especially in the technology sector, which include many immigrants in their ranks and have lobbied for fewer immigration restrictions.
Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of Tesla Motors Inc. who was one of a dozen business leaders who met with Trump on Monday, wrote on Twitter, “Many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the U.S. They’ve done right, not wrong and don’t deserve to be rejected.”
Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg voiced concern over the policy on Friday, and Airbnb Inc. CEO Brian Chesky said Saturday in a tweet that “closing doors further divides” people.
Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said in a tweet that the order has “real and upsetting” humanitarian and economic impact.
Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Travis Kalanick said Saturday that he plans to outline his misgivings about the order at the first meeting of the Trump administration’s business advisory group next Friday in Washington.
Criticism of Trump’s executive order emerged from both the left and the right. Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration-policy analyst at the conservative Cato Institute, wrote a post before the order was signed saying that foreigners from the seven nations affected by the ban had “killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.”
“The measures taken here will have virtually no effect on improving U.S. national security,” he wrote.
Democrats in Congress roundly criticized the order, as did some Republicans including Hatch, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Senator Tim Kaine, the Virginia Democrat who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate, said Trump had “defied everything our nation stands for.” Sasse, who criticized Trump throughout the election campaign, called the order “too broad.”
“If we send a signal to the Middle East that the U.S. sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion,” he said in a statement.
Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the presidential election, said on Twitter, “I stand with the people gathered across the country tonight defending our values & our Constitution. This is not who we are.”