A federal judge granted an emergency stay Saturday to bar deportation of people with valid visas who landed in the U.S., following chaos and detentions after President Donald Trump's executive order related to immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The American Civil Liberties Union estimates it will affect between 100 and 200 people detained at or in transit to U.S. airports, though they do not have to be released from detention. It did not, however, appear to cover Trump's full order, suspending visas from certain nations for 90 days.
The ACLU and other activist groups filed a class action lawsuit on Saturday, seeking to challenge the president's order, as acrimony widened over the policy and the number of detainees waylaid in transit appeared to swell. Demonstrations sprang up at airports around the country in response to the detentions.
"This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement.
A senior Homeland Security official said Saturday that the agency is monitoring the litigation and has not seen the stay, but will implement any appropriate orders accordingly. The officer said 109 travelers were denied entry into the U.S., while another 173 were stopped from boarding flights in the first 23 hours of the order.
Late Friday, the Trump administration announced that it would temporarily bar entry to refugees from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen due to terrorism concerns. The order seeks "extreme vetting" procedures for those it did allow to enter the U.S. In signing the order, Trump said he pledged to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America."
In a habeus corpus petition filed Saturday in a New York federal court on behalf of two Iraqis detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the ACLU called Trump's move "unlawful." They were later released.
The case's two lead plaintiffs were held by authorities and threatened with deportation, the ACLU argued, even though both are authorized to enter the U.S. As a number of immigrants in transit were waylaid by the sudden shift in policy, spontaneous demonstrations erupted at JFK Airport on Saturday afternoon.
The ACLU's briefing called the ban a part of a "widespread pattern applied to many refugees and arriving aliens" in the wake of Trump's executive order. Critics have blasted it as a de facto ban on many Muslims entering the United States, though Trump denied that characterization Saturday.
"It's not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. It's working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over," Trump said.