A federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay Jan. 28, temporarily halting the removal of individuals detained after President Trump issued an executive order the previous day that bars entry into the US of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. The stay came as scores of refugees, immigrants and others were stranded at airports across the country. While the ruling blocked the deportation of some arrivals ensnared by the executive order, it stopped short of allowing them into the country, and did not actually weigh in on the constitutionality of the president's order. Large crowds of protesters turned out at several airports, including New York's JFK, to protest Trump's order.
Trump's order suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely, suspended all other refugee resettlement for 120 days, and banned the entry of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days. The ACLU, which brought the challenge to the order, said, "This was a Muslim ban wrapped in a paper-thin national security rationale."
The ACLU brought the challenge on behalf of two Iraqi nations detained at JFK—including one, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who worked as an interpreter for the US Army's 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. The ACLU argued that Trump's order violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution. Judge Ann M. Donnelly issued the stay at 9 AM.
The executive order ostensibly halts the entry of refugees and nationals from the designated countries pending a review of the vetting process. Judge Donnelly's ruling applies to some 200 people already in the United States, and those who were mid-flight as the White House announced its order.
The order also places a cap of 50,000 refugees to be accepted in 2017, compared to a limit of 110,000 set by President Obama. Priority will be given to religious minorities facing persecution, with Trump specifically singling out Christians in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. The order also suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allows consular officers to exempt applicants from face-to-face interviews if they are seeking to renew temporary visas within a year of expiry. (NYT, Daily News, The Hill, BBC News)
Hours after Trump signed his executive order, a mosque in southern Texas burned to the ground. The Islamic Center of Victoria, which supports some 100 local Muslims in the town roughly 125 miles from Houston, was completely gutted by the fire. The Islamic Center's president Shahid Hashmi said he watched helplessly as the mosque was destroyed. The local fire marshal said the cause of the fire is currently unknown, but is asking for the community's help in the investigation. (US Uncut)
Trump said the order was aimed at keeping out "radical Islamic terrorists," adding: "We don't want them here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country, and love deeply our people." (NYT)
Yet critics point out that the order excludes Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 19 9-11 hijackers were from. The remainder were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon—also countries not covered by Trump's order. Some speculate the order intentionally excludes countries where his Trump Organization has done business or pursued potential deals. Trump properties include golf courses in the UAE and two luxury towers in Turkey. (Bloomberg)