US suspends enforcement of travel ban, Dept. of Justice moves to appeal

AP PHOTO
People chant during a rally protesting the immigration policies of President Donald Trump, near the White House in Washington, Saturday.

AP PHOTO People chant during a rally protesting the immigration policies of President Donald Trump, near the White House in Washington, Saturday.

WASHINGTON — The government on Saturday suspended enforcement of President Donald Trump’s refugee and immigration ban and filed notice it would appeal a judge’s order, plunging the new administration into a crisis that has challenged Trump’s authority — and ability to fulfill campaign promises.

The stand-down, a day after a federal judge in Washington state temporarily blocked the ban, marked an extraordinary setback for the White House. Only a week ago, the president had acted to suspend America’s refugee program and halt immigration to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries that the government said raise terrorism concerns.

As the White House worked to reinstate the ban, Trump mocked U.S. District Judge James Robart, appointed by President George W. Bush, as a “so-called judge” whose “ridiculous” ruling “will be overturned.” He added in a subsequent tweet: “Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision.”

Trump’s direct attack recalled his diatribes during the campaign against a federal judge of Mexican heritage who was overseeing a Trump University case. Justice Department lawyers could be called upon to answer for his words as the travel ban case reaches the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The order had caused unending confusion for many foreigners trying to reach the United States, prompted protests across the United States and led to multiple court challenges. Demonstrations took place outside the White House, in New York and elsewhere. One was planned later Saturday near the estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where Trump was spending the weekend and where the American Red Cross scheduled its annual fundraising gala.

Robart’s ruling, which the White House said the Justice Department would challenge, led federal agencies to unwind enforcement of Trump’s executive order. Justice filed notice Saturday it would appeal the ruling.

“We’ll win,” Trump told reporters Saturday as he attended the annual gala of the American Red Cross. “For the safety of the country, we’ll win.”

The State Department, after initially saying that as many as 60,000 foreigners from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen had their visas canceled, reversed course Saturday and said they could travel to the U.S. with a valid visa.

The department on Saturday advised refugee aid agencies that refugees set to travel before Trump signed his order will now be allowed into the United States. A State Department official said in an email obtained by The Associated Press that the government was “focusing on booking refugee travel” through Feb. 17 and working to have arrivals resume as soon as Monday.

The Homeland Security Department no longer was directing airlines to prevent visa-holders affected by Trump’s order from boarding U.S.-bound planes.