Another federal judge is going after President Donald Trump’s travel ban, issuing an order that bars the State Department from canceling valid immigrant visas already granted to citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations targeted by Trump’s directive.
U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte’s temporary restraining order clearly seems intended to allow such immigrants to enter the country, but the literal wording of the order may undercut its intended effect. The order prohibits the U.S. government from blocking the entry of citizens of those seven countries “with a valid immigrant visa,” but there may be no one who has a valid visa at the moment.
A memo issued by a State Department official shortly after Trump’s executive order was filed last week “provisionally” revoked all valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas held by citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with some exceptions.
“It appears he was not aware that visas at issue have already been canceled and that ordering the government to respect existing visas is, therefore, beside the point,” said Jonathan Meyer, a former deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security now at the law firm Sheppard Mullin. “Similarly, he has enjoined cancellation of the visas when perhaps he would have ordered their reinstatement if he knew they had already been canceled. This type of confusion tends to proliferate on all sides when actions are rushed and litigation is taking place in multiple locations simultaneously.”
Birotte’s order was issued Tuesday in a lawsuit filed on behalf of dozens of Yemenis stranded in the African nation of Djibouti as a result of Trump’s order.
“These are all children, parents and the spouses of U.S. citizens,” a lawyer involved in the case Julie Goldberg told the Associated Press from Djibouti.
Birotte’s order is just one of about half a dozen judicial orders issued seeking to limit the impact of the directive Trump signed Friday. A judge in New York issued an order Saturday morning barring deportation of people affected by Trump’s directive. Early Sunday, two judges in Boston issued a somewhat broader order that required people with valid visas or green cards be released.
Birotte’s order seems to go further by applying to anyone with an immigrant visa (but not a tourist, business or student visa) and by requiring the government to allow those individuals to travel to the U.S. However, the order doesn’t discusses the revocation of visas and it is unclear if the judge knew about the State Department cancellation memo last week.
Part of the order applies to all people with valid immigrant visas from the seven Muslim-majority countries affected by Trump’s travel ban, prohibiting the government from removing, detaining or blocking entry them. But other parts of the judge’s order appear to apply only the 28 people named in the lawsuit.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the order.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said her agency does not comment on pending litigation. However, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Tuesday that the department is complying with all court orders.