With Trump travel ban still blocked, travellers head to US

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PALM BEACH, United States — A US appeals court has rejected a government request to reinstate President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban, prompting travellers 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 January 27, when Trump issued a blanket ban on all refugees and travellers 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 Sunday’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!”

‘Irreparable harm’ 

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 judgement.”

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 Monday.

And the Justice Department was given until 2300 GMT Monday to supply more documents supporting its position.

Borders reopened 

Meanwhile, in line with Robart’s ruling, travellers 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.”

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 Sunday 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 cancelled”.

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.

‘Contemptuous’ 

The restrictions have wreaked havoc at airports across America and beyond, leaving travellers 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.

On Sunday, Trump supporters were expected to rally in front of his Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.

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