A federal judge in Seattle granted Washington state’s request for a temporary restraining order to immediately halt implementation and enforcement of President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban — a move with huge implications for the tech industry and the nation.
U.S. District Judge James Robart aggressively questioned attorneys for both the state of Washington and President Trump in a packed courtroom before finally siding with the state in the decision, handed down Friday afternoon.
“I’m also asked to look and determine if the executive order is rationally based, and rationally based implies, to me, that I have to find, to some extent, it’s grounded in facts and not in fiction,” Robart said during the hearing.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the temporary restraining order, granted on a nationwide basis, will go into effect immediately.
“No one is above the law — not even the president,” Ferguson said Friday after the hearing.
Already, there is some confusion about what will happen to people who have been barred entry to the U.S.
An official from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly told NBC News that the restraining order will have “no immediate practical effect” because visas from the seven countries identified in the executive order have already been revoked. Citizens of those countries would have to re-apply for a visa, according to the report.
The Washington attorney general’s office disagreed.
“For any visa that was revoked, pursuant to the executive order, we would expect that those visas would still be available, absent some reason why the Department of State — other than the executive order — why they wouldn’t have issued,” Colleen Melody, head of attorney general’s civil rights unit, said after the hearing.
In a statement, the White House said the Justice Department would file an emergency stay of the judge’s order “at the earliest possible time.”
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” the White House said.
President Trump also took to Twitter, pledging to challenge the judge’s decision.
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
DHS has already stopped implementing the executive order, according to a statement shared with GeekWire.
“In accordance with the judge’s ruling, DHS has suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections of the Executive Order entitled, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,’ said a DHS spokesperson. “This includes actions to suspend passenger system rules that flag travelers for operational action subject to the Executive Order. DHS personnel will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure.”
Ferguson filed the lawsuit Monday, claiming the president’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries is illegal on several counts.
The Trump administration said the order — which suspends Syrian refugee immigration indefinitely and prevents citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya from entering the U.S. for 90 days — is necessary for border security and protect Americans from terrorism.
Ferguson accused the Trump administration of violating the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the right to due process, and the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
“The focus of our claim is on people who have been here and have overnight lost the right to travel, lost their right to visit their families, lost the right to perform research, lost the right to speak at conferences around the world,” Washington state Solicitor General Noah Purcell said during the hearing Friday.
The Trump Administration’s lawyers claimed that the state does not have grounds to bring the charges and that the INA authorizes the president to suspend entry of foreign nationals to the U.S.
Washington was the first state to sue the Trump administration over the immigration ban. On Thursday, Minnesota joined Ferguson’s lawsuit as a plaintiff. Massachusetts, New York and Virginia have also joined third-party lawsuits challenging the order.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the temporary restraining order a “tremendous victory for the state of Washington” in a tweet.
We should feel heartened by today’s victory and more resolute than ever that we are fighting on the right side of history.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) February 4, 2017
The conflict has implications for the technology community, which has been reeling ever since Trump announced the executive order a week ago.
Amazon and Expedia, two of Washington state’s biggest tech companies, filed formal declarations of support for Ferguson’s lawsuit. In the statements, each company detailed the ramifications the travel ban will have on their employees and business operations.
Microsoft has also been a vocal critic of the executive order, calling it “misguided and a fundamental step backwards.”
Related: Washington AG explains how Amazon, Expedia, and Microsoft influenced crucial victory over Trump
Trump’s immigration crackdown also has implications for the startup community.
A draft executive order, obtained by Bloomberg News, revealed Trump’s plans to kill the International Entrepreneur Rule pushed through by the Obama administration. The rule was proposed as an alternative to a “startup visa,” which Congress failed to create.
Obama’s rule provides an option for immigrant entrepreneurs building startups in the U.S., if their companies met certain benchmarks for success. That draft, however, is not related to Ferguson’s lawsuit.
After the court hearing, Attorney General Ferguson and his staff gave a press conference on the steps of the U.S. District Court in Seattle. Watch the video below for their complete remarks.