by DON MELVIN and ALI AROUZI
Homeland Security Suspends Implentation of President Trump’s Travel Ban
The State Department announced Saturday it has reversed the cancellation of visas under President Donald Trump’s executive order barring people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering America.
The move essentially backs up a federal judge who blocked Trump’s order Friday. The department had said up to 60,000 foreigners had their visas “provisionally revoked.”
“Those individuals with visas that were not physically cancelled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid,” the State Department said, adding that it is working with the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the move.
On Saturday, normal air service resumed following the judge’s decision, which Trump blasted in a series of tweets as “ridiculous.”
The order by U.S. District Court Senior Judge James L. Robart means that holders of U.S. visas or green cards allowing them to live and work in the U.S. can fly into the country as before. Trump’s order affected citizens of Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Yemen.
Qatar Airways issued a statement saying that, “as directed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” nationals of the seven affected countries and all refugees presenting a valid U.S. visa or green card allowing them to work in the U.S. would be permitted to travel to the United States.
Egyptair said the same thing.
“There is no stopping any passenger if they have a visa,” Egyptair’s manager for flights to New York, Hossam Hussein, told NBC by phone. He said people from any nation could travel to the U.S.
Lufthansa, too, said passengers previously blocked were now free to fly to the U.S.
Early Saturday, the International Air Transport Association sent a note to all airlines confirming that the ban, for the moment, was completely inoperative. Visas that were rescinded have now been reinstated, the note said. And business was back to the way it was before Trump issued his executive order.
“It is as if the Executive Order never existed,” the note said.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying it had “suspended any and all actions” regarding the affected sections of the executive order. “DHS personnel will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure.”
The statement said the Department of Justice intended to file an emergency legal action to overturn the stay.
“The Order is intended to protect the homeland and the American people, and the President has no higher duty and responsibility than to do so,” the statement said.
Trump himself expressed his dismay at the court ruling in a series of tweets on Saturday morning, saying “the opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
On Saturday morning, people began immediately to resume efforts to fly to the U.S.
“I heard about the judge’s ruling and I immediately got on a plane to Frankfurt to see if we got a connecting flight to Boston,” said Saira Rafiei who is Iranian and heard about the news while she was in Tehran.
NBC News spoke to her as she waited for a plane in Frankfurt.
The temporary restraining order applies nationwide, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office said.
“The Constitution prevailed today,” Ferguson said in a statement. “No one is above the law — not even the President.”
The restraining order will be in effect until Robart considers a legal challenge filed by the U.S. attorney general, Ferguson’s office said.
The White House press secretary said the administration would seek an emergency stay at the earliest possible time, and initially called the judge’s action an “outrageous order.” An updated statement issued a short time later dropped the term “outrageous.”
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” both statements said.
The order, and its swift and seemingly unplanned implementation had created chaos in airports around the U.S. with people detained and families separated.
Among those reported temporarily detained were an Iraqi refugee who worked with the U.S. government, green card holders, students and professors. Protests erupted at several large airports across the country after Trump signed the order.