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Immigration Ban Halted By Federal Judge


The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department say they've stopped enforcing President Trump's executive order on immigration. A federal judge in Washington state put a temporary hold on that order, which barred all refugees as well as travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. In a tweet today, Trump called the judge's ruling ridiculous and vowed it will be overturned. The legal back and forth promises another unpredictable weekend at international airports. NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president in Palm Beach this weekend. Scott, thanks for being with us.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: The court order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of Washington state. What was his argument?

HORSLEY: Washington, joined by Minnesota, argued the president's order issued just over a week ago is unconstitutional, that it violates equal protection and due process guarantees and the prohibition against a government-established religion. Now, Washington saw a temporary restraining order barring the government from enforcing the travel ban. And Judge James Robart, an appointee of George W. Bush, by the way, granted that order. Now, there's a fairly high bar for issuing a restraining order like this. Washington state had to show it would suffer immediate irreparable harm if the travel ban were enforced. And Judge Robart ruled the state met that test.

SIMON: White House issued a statement last night that called the order outrageous. Then it backtracked. What was that byplay like?

HORSLEY: Yeah. The White House press secretary issued two statements last evening after the judge's order came out - the first so the Justice Department would go to court at the earliest possible time to challenge what it called this outrageous order. And then a short time later, we got a revised statement saying pretty much the same thing but dropping the word outrageous. It looked as though somebody in the White House decided insulting the federal judiciary might not be their best course of action. But the president himself is not sharing in that restraint. Trump's Twitter fingers were busy this morning. He referred to Judge Robart as a so-called judge and complained that the opinion would essentially take law enforcement away from the country.

SIMON: What's the practical effect of this order?

HORSLEY: Well, as you say, it's going to be another unpredictable weekend for refugees trying to reach the U.S. and would-be travelers from those seven countries - Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Syria. The judge's order says for now people with valid visas from those countries can come in. And some international airlines have begun informing would-be travelers of that, but the airlines are also cautioning passengers the rules could change on short notice if the administration prevails in challenging this order.

So the question is, you know, which moves faster, jet airplanes or the federal appeals process? What we do know, Scott, is that there are a lot of people potentially affected by this legal dispute. We have heard conflicting accounts from the State Department and the Department of Justice about just how many, whether the number of affected visa holders is less than 60,000 or somewhere around 100,000. But it is certainly in the tens of thousands of people who are very invested in the outcome of this legal back and forth.

SIMON: Scott, casting back a few months ago to the campaign, this is not the first time that Donald Trump has dusted up - gotten into a dust-up with a federal judge.

HORSLEY: No, that's right. Remember his feud last summer with a judge in San Diego, Gonzalo Curiel, who was hearing the lawsuit over fraud claims against Trump University. After an adverse ruling against him, Trump insisted that judge, who was born in Indiana of Mexican ancestry, was biased against him because of Trump's attacks on Mexican immigrants. Interestingly, Trump's attorneys never made that claim in court though, and Trump eventually settled the case, just after the election, for $25 million.

SIMON: NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.