Federal courts around the country have issued emergency orders temporarily blocking the removal of refugees legally authorized to enter the United States, generating further confusion in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration from countries with high instances of terrorism.
The first such order came Saturday when District Judge Ann Donnelly in the Eastern District of New York issued a stay that halted the removal of several hundred refugees trapped in airports around the country.
A challenge to the order was brought by two refugees from Iraq — Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi — who were held at JFK International Airport in New York, despite holding visas authorizing their entry into the United States. The pair also sought class certification to represent all migrants in similar situations.
The executive order the president issued Saturday did not make provision for hundreds of refugees with visas and green cards en route to the United States, confining Darweesh, Alshawi and others like them to legal limbo, as volunteer lawyers rushed to major airports to take on migrants as pro-bono clients.
Donnelly’s order stayed the removal of dozens of refugees, though it does not appear to authorize their entry to the United States. (RELATED: Judge Grants Refugees Stay From Trump’s Executive Order)
Similar orders came late on Saturday or early Sunday from federal courts in Massachusetts, Washington state, and Virginia.
Judge Allison Burroughs in the District of Massachusetts issued a ruling that temporarily enjoins the removal of refugees who are legally authorized to enter the U.S. Her ruling also requires Customs and Border Patrol officers to advise airlines servicing Logan International Airport in Boston that individuals affected by Trump’s order will not be detained or removed solely on the basis of the order.
Late Saturday, Judge Leonie Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia issued an order forbidding the removal of refugees detained at Dulles International Airport for seven days. The order also requires government officials to grant the refugees access to legal counsel.
California has also filed a challenge to Trump’s order. The state claims the order violates the separation of powers doctrine because the president lack statutory authorization from Congress to create such a policy. They also claim the order infringes on the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
“Mr. Trump’s Executive Order presents a proposed ‘law’ facially prohibiting entry of persons to the United States based of their adherence to religious beliefs shared in certain countries,” California’s filing reads. “The Executive Order is therefore facially unconstitutional and must be stricken as an infringement on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement it will abide by all court orders, but insisted the president’s order remains in place.
“President Trump’s Executive Orders remain in place — prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety,” the statement said. “No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States.”
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