On Friday, February 3, 2017, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against defendants, President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DHS Secretary John F. Kelly, and Acting U.S. Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. The plaintiffs in the case, the State of Washington and the State of Minnesota, filed the motion for the TRO in their suit, State of Washington, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 2:17-cv-00141-JLR (W.D.Wash., January 30, 2017).
The underlying complaint, which the plaintiffs originally filed on January 30, 2017, sought declaratory and injunctive relief to invalidate key portions of President Trump’s executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” issued on January 27, 2017. The TRO halts—on a nationwide basis—enforcement of the EO’s provisions suspending admission to the United States of foreign nationals from certain designated countries. The specific provisions of the EO that the TRO prohibited from being enforced are section 3(c) (regarding the 90-day suspension of entry into the United States of immigrants and non-immigrants from designated countries), section 5(a) (regarding the 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program), section 5(b) (regarding the prioritization of refugee claims on the basis of religious-based persecution if the individual is from a minority religion), section 5(c) (halting admission of Syrian refugees), and section 5(e) (regarding refugee admission on a case-by-case basis if admission is determined to be in the national interest). However, the TRO’s effects are temporary and are only intended to preserve the status quo before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington holds a hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction in the case. The White House, through Press Secretary Sean Spicer, has already announced that the U.S. Department of Justice will seek an emergency stay of the TRO.
Earlier in the day, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, who is a federal judge in Boston, Massachusetts, declined to renew a temporary restraining order suspending enforcement of the EO, which U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs and U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein had issued in a separate case brought in Massachusetts. That TRO, which is focused on the same underlying EO as the Washington state case, will expire on February 5, 2017.
The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that it will suspend implementation of the EO as mandated by the TRO and resume inspection of travelers in accordance with its standard policy and procedure, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reportedly informed airlines that they may again board individuals from the countries designated in the EO. In addition, the U.S. Department of State has informed the American Immigration Lawyers Association that any visas that had been provisionally revoked solely pursuant to the EO are now valid, in compliance with Judge Robart’s more current TRO order, despite the split in the federal court decisions. Judge Robart’s TRO notwithstanding, the swiftly evolving nature of these cases, the impending likelihood of appeals, and the temporary nature of the relief, all suggest the ability of nationals from designated countries to be admitted to the United States may continue to change. Our recently updated article, “UPDATE: FAQs on the Impact of the Executive Order Suspending Admission to the U.S. of Foreign Nationals From Certain Designated Countries,” answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the EO.