AmericaTop StoriesWorld

Visa holders rush to board flights amid reprieve

 Trump immigration ban in limbo

LOS ANGELES: Naimah Qazi (left) and Hatal Ashraph, both of Hawthorne, California, protest the executive order by US President Donald Trump banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday. – AFP

PALM BEACH: A US appeals court has rejected a government request to reinstate President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban, prompting travelers from seven mainly Muslim nations to hurry to enter the country before the next legal twist. The early-morning ruling from a federal appeals court was the latest chapter in a saga which began on Jan 27, when Trump issued a blanket ban on all refugees and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump, known for his early morning tweet storms, did not offer an immediate comment about the ruling, but Vice President Mike Pence, who made the rounds on yesterday’s TV political talk shows, called the decision “frustrating”. “We will move very quickly,” Pence told Fox News. “We are going to win the arguments because we will take the steps necessary to protect the country, which the president of the United States has the authority to do.”

On Saturday, the Manhattan property mogul had unleashed a string of fiery tweets defending his policy and attacking federal judge James Robart, who on Friday blocked the ban nationwide pending a wider legal review. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
Trump wrote on Twitter, in rare criticism of a judge by a sitting president. “The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!” Trump’s original executive order slapped a blanket ban on entry for nationals of the seven countries for 90 days and barred all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely.

In an appeal filed late Saturday, the Justice Department said that suspending the ban was causing “irreparable harm” to the American public. It said Robart’s ruling had run afoul of constitutional separation of powers, and “second-guesses the president’s national security judgment”. But in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request calling for the travel ban to be immediately reinstated.

Judges William Canby, Jr and Michelle Friedland did not give a reason in their two-paragraph ruling. However, they told the states of Washington and Minnesota, which had filed the original suit over the ban, to provide documents detailing their opposition to the government’s appeal by 0759 GMT today. And the Justice Department was given until 2300 GMT today to supply more documents supporting its position.

Meanwhile, in line with Robart’s ruling, travelers from the targeted countries with valid visas began arriving on American soil while others prepared to set off for the United States. In New York, 33-year-old Sudanese doctor Kamal Fadlalla rejoiced – after a week blocked in his home country, he was back in the Big Apple with friends and colleagues. “It feels great,” Fadlalla told AFP in the arrival area of Terminal 4 at John F Kennedy International Airport. “It was a tough week actually.  (…) It was really horrible, it was shocking for everybody.”

“This is the first time I try to travel to America. We were booked to travel next week but decided to bring it forward after we heard,” said a Yemeni woman, recently married to a US citizen, who boarded a plane from Cairo to Turkey yesterday to connect with a US-bound flight. She declined to be named for fear it could complicate her entry to the United States. Reacting to the latest court ruling, Iraqi government spokesman Saad Al-Hadithi said: “It is a move in the right direction to solve the problems that it caused.”

In Tehran, a 30-year-old Iranian woman told AFP she had rebooked her tickets to the United States and was ready to travel late yesterday to see her brother. “Until yesterday, I was completely disappointed. We have some new hope after this news, but it’s 50-50. I am willing to take this risk,” said the woman, who did not want to give her name. The State Department has said visa holders from the seven countries are allowed to travel to the US as long as their documents have not been “physically canceled”.

The department had earlier said up to 60,000 people had their visas revoked as a result of Trump’s order. The Department of Homeland Security – which runs border agencies – also said it would cease implementing the order. The restrictions have wreaked havoc at airports across America and beyond, leaving travelers trying to reach the United States in limbo. The political backlash for Trump has been equally severe, with the order fueling numerous mass protests.

On Saturday, thousands of people marched from London and Paris to New York, Washington and Palm Beach, where Trump is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago retreat – now dubbed the “Winter White House”. In the US capital, hundreds marched from the White House to Capitol Hill. “Donald, Donald can’t you see, we don’t want you in DC,” chanted the demonstrators in the largely Democratic-leaning city. Yesterday, Trump supporters were expected to rally in front of his Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. – Agencies

Back to top button