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Federal judge grants ACLU motion; places limited, temporary stay on refugee executive order

Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 after two after two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

A federal judge in New York has granted a motion filed by the ACLU to grant a temporary emergency stay on the enforcement of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump which placed a temporary halt on the refugee program instituted by former President Barack Obama.

The ACLU filed the motion on behalf of two men who became the subject of nationwide coverage when they were detained at JFK Airport in New York as a result of some of the confusion generated by the Executive Order despite having lawful entrance visas to the United States. After the judge’s ruling, both men were granted entry to the United States.

The stay granted by the judge only pertains to those who were already physically present in the United States, or in transit to the United States at the time the Executive Order was signed. It likewise only pertains to those with valid, legal visas. The Executive Order remains in force with respect to all would-be travelers and refugees from the seven program countries referenced in the Executive Order.

The lawyers who filed the motion said that the judge’s ruling could affect as many as 200 travelers who were either currently in United States airports or en route, according to the New York Times.

Trump’s Executive Order has been the subject of bitter debate and criticism throughout the day Saturday, sparked at least in part by the fact that, as with other Executive Orders released by the Trump administration, Trump did not release the text of the Executive Order itself until nearly two full hours after announcing the existence of the Order and it’s alleged scope.

The Executive Order signed by Trump targeted Visa travel and immigration from countries already identified as “areas of concern” under a law signed by President Obama.

It does not, on its face, target Muslim immigrants, although the countries affected do primarily have Muslim populations. Further, Sec. 5, paragraph b of the order directs that religious minorities who suffer persecutions in these Muslim-majority countries be given priority in the issuance of future refugee visas, which would have the effect of placing many minority religious populations (such as Syria’s large Christian population and Iran’s Bahai population, which have long faced persecution) at the front of the list.

The Executive Order is expected to face future legal challenges and its ultimate fate is uncertain at this point.

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