Four U.S. states in court to challenge Trump travel ban

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By Scott Malone and Dan Levine | BOSTON/SEATTLE

BOSTON/SEATTLE A federal judge in Virginia
ordered the White House to provide a list of all people stopped
from entering the United States by a travel ban imposed last
week on citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries by President
Donald Trump.

The ruling came on a day that attorneys from four states
were in courts challenging the executive order. The Trump
administration justified the action on national security
grounds, but opponents labeled it an unconstitutional targeting
of people based on the religious beliefs.

The State Department said on Friday that less than 60,000
visas previously issued to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya,
Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen had been invalidated as a result
of the order. That disclosure followed media reports that
government lawyers were citing a figure of 100,000.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia
ordered the federal government to give the state a list by
Thursday of “all persons who have been denied entry to or
removed from the United States.”

At Boston’s Logan International Airport, at least four
college students from Iran and Iraq who had previously been
blocked from entering the United States by the order, arrived
with new visas on Friday, according to a Reuters witness.

The new Republican president’s order signed on Jan. 27
triggered chaos at U.S. airports last weekend. Some travelers
abroad were turned back from flights into the United States,
crowds of hundreds of people packed into arrival areas to
protest and legal objections were filed across the country.

The order also temporarily stopped the entry of all refugees
into the country and indefinitely halted the settlement of
Syrian refugees.

The state of Hawaii on Friday joined the challenge to the
order, with officials saying they were suing to block
enforcement of the travel ban. Federal judges in Boston and
Seattle also were weighing arguments.

SKEPTICISM IN BOSTON

In Boston, a federal judge expressed skepticism about a
civil rights group’s claim that Trump’s order represented
religious discrimination.

Civil-rights advocates called on U.S. District Judge Nathan
Gorton to extend a restraining order issued early on Sunday that
for seven days blocks the detention or removal of approved
refugees, visa holders, and legal permanent U.S. residents who
entered from the seven countries.

“Where does it say Muslim countries?” Gorton asked Matthew
Segal, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, or
ACLU.

Segal responded, “If your honor’s question is, ‘Does the
word ‘Muslim’ make a profound presence in this executive
order?,’ my answer is that it doesn’t. But the president
described what he was going to do as a Muslim ban and then he
proceeded to carry it out.”

Gorton shot back, “Am I to take the words of an executive at
any point before or after election as a part of that executive
order?”

Gorton asked U.S. Justice Department lawyer Joshua Press how
the seven countries had been selected.

Press said the list had come from a law passed in 2015 and
amended early last year requiring that citizens of those
countries apply for visas to enter the United States, “out of
concern about the refugees that were coming, mainly from Syria
at that time and terrorist events that were occurring in
Europe.”

Trump has told a Christian broadcaster that Syrian
Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee
status.

In Seattle, the states of Washington and Minnesota were
together asking a judge to suspend the entire policy nationwide,
which would represent the broadest ruling to date against
Trump’s directive.

Should the Seattle judge rule that Washington state and
Minnesota have legal standing to sue, it could help Democratic
attorneys general take on Trump in court on issues beyond
immigration. (Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Brian
Snyder in Boston and Lawrence Hurley, Lesley Wroughton and Susan
Heavey in Washington)



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