US judges move to block Trump immigration ban
US judges in at least four states have attempted to block enforcement of President Donald Trump's executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Judges in Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington state issued their rulings following an order by Brooklyn District Judge Ann Donnelly.
Donnelly had ruled in a lawsuit by two men from Iraq being held at JFK International Airport in New York. While none of the rulings struck down the executive order, the growing number of orders could complicate the administration's effort to enforce it.
Trump's order on Friday halted immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and stopped the resettlement of refugees for 120 days. The new Republican president said these actions were needed "to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States".
Across the US, thousands of protesters arrived at airports to voice their anger at the ruling against immigration, chanting: "Let them in, let them in."
Lawyers worked overnight to help confused international travellers, and activists and lawyers tracking the arrivals said some Border Patrol agents appeared to be disregarding the various court orders. Lawsuits brought on behalf of more than 100 individual travellers have been filed around the country.
"There is really no method to this madness," Becca Heller, director of the New York-based International Refugee Assistance Project organisation, said.
However, the Trump administration showed no sign of backing down from the executive order. "Prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the US government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety," a Department of Homeland Security 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."
Trump took to Twitter yesterday morning to insist the move was needed to halt terrorism, stating: "Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!" He later tweeted: "Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!"
In an official statement last night, he said: "America is a proud nation of immigrants." He said the country "will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression", but "while protecting our own citizens and border".
Trump insisted it's "not a Muslim ban" and blamed the media for that suggestion.
Trump said the US would resume issuing visas to all countries impacted after a review of security policies.
Trump's aggressive action triggered a wave of criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill, but also from a growing number of lawmakers in his own party.
"You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have," Senator Rob Portman said.
The Department of Homeland Security noted that "less than 1pc" of international air travellers arriving on Saturday in the United States were "inconvenienced" by the executive order - though the situation described by lawyers and immigrant advocates across the country was one of widespread uncertainty and even chaos at airports.