Airlines Reverse Trump Travel Ban Policies After Judge’s Order

Foreign airlines operating in Iran, however, are still not selling U.S.-bound flight tickets to Iranians with U.S. visas

Airlines are resuming service to the U.S. for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries affected by a sweeping travel ban implemented last week. The reversal comes after a federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked President Donald Trump's executive order on foreigners' admission to the U.S.

Qatar Airways, Egyptair, Lufthansa and British Airways confirmed Saturday that all passengers with valid travel documents were being welcomed on flights.

Qatar Airways issued an advisory to passengers saying citizens of the countries previously barred from entry who hold a valid U.S. visa or green card will be allowed to travel to the U.S.

The airline cited a directive by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Egyptair and Lufthansa also confirmed to NBC News that the airlines were allowing all passengers with valid travel documents to board U.S.-bound flights.

"There is no stopping any passenger if they have a visa," the Egyptair manager for flights to New York, Hossam Hussein, told NBC News. He said people from any nation could travel to the U.S.

A Lufthansa spokesperson said, "all passengers with valid travel documents are currently eligible to board on LH flights to any US airport," NBC News reported. "We will continue communicating with the CBP and will fully comply with the applicable immigration regulations.”

British Airways said the airline always meets its "obligations under international immigration agreements," according to NBC News. "All customers with the correct documentation will be accepted for travel."

Foreign airlines operating in Iran, whose citizens were also included in the ban, however, have instructed travel agencies not to sell U.S.-bound flight tickets to Iranians holding U.S. visas in the wake of Trump's executive order. 

The directive does not come from U.S. airlines.

The move comes even though a U.S. judge on Friday temporarily blocked the travel ban, siding with two states that urged a nationwide hold on the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.

U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle granted Washington state and Minnesota a temporary restraining order Friday while the court considers the lawsuit, which aims to permanently block Trump's order.

"The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury," Robart said. "This TRO (temporary restraining order) is granted on a nationwide basis ..." 

Lawyers for the U.S. government argued that the states don't have standing to challenge the order and said Congress gave the president authority to make decisions on national security and admitting immigrants.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued, the first state challenging the president's order, saying the order is causing significant harm to residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the suit this week.

“The Constitution prevailed today,” Ferguson said after the ruling. “The law is a powerful thing — it has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States."

Washington Solicitor General Noah Purcell added that the Trump administration's argument that the president has unfettered discretion on immigrant entry is "not the law. It's a scary view of the law."

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called the order "outrageous" in a statement released late Friday and said the DOJ plans to file an emergency stay to defend the president's executive action. Soon after, the White House sent out a new statement that removed the word "outrageous." 

"The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people," the statement from the Office of the Press Secretary said. 

A Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News the judge's order will have no immediate practical effect because all previously issued visas affected by last week's executive order were canceled. Travelers with passports from those countries hoping to come to the U.S. would have to reapply for a visa, the officials said.

Still, the federal government is issuing waivers to some travelers affected by the ban in order to expedite their entry to the U.S. An Iranian infant, who was unable to enter the U.S. for heart surgery under Trump's ban, will receive a waiver, along with her family members. They are expected to arrive in Portland, Oregon for her surgery early next week.  

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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