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A federal appeals court early Sunday denied the Justice Department's request to immediately reinstate President Donald Trump's order restricting refugees and travelers from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.
The ruling came just hours after the department filed an emergency motion to stay the order by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart of Seattle that halted the implementation of restrictions that Trump's order imposed nationwide.
The denial means travelers restricted under the order can continue coming to the United States while the legal battles continue.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco asked challengers of the ban to respond to the appeal and for the Justice Department to file a counter-response by Monday afternoon.
"This is her first experience with democracy where no one is above the law, even the president"
The Justice Department argues that Trump's Jan. 27 order — which suspended entry to the United States. from nationals of Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen — is a valid exercise of Trump's authority.
The brief says the federal court ruling "second-guesses the the President's national security judgment." It cites a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that said "the power to admit or exclude aliens is a sovereign prerogative."
"Unlike the President, courts do not have access to classified information about the threat posed by terrorist organizations operating in particular nations, the efforts of those organizations to infiltrate the United States, or gaps in the vetting process," the Justice Department brief argues.
It also argues that Washington state lacks legal standing in the case and that the constitutional challenges it brought were without merit. It goes on to say the federal court improperly issued a nationwide injunction that blocked Trump's order.
Trump criticized Robart on Twitter on Sunday after having called him a "so-called judge" early Saturday. "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system," the president's tweet said in part.
It wasn't immediately clear when a decision could be made on the request for a stay.
About 60,000 visas that had been canceled were deemed valid after Robart issued his restraining order Friday. Some visa holders rushed to take advantage of the reprieve and enter the United States.
The Justice Department brief argues that the Seattle judge's order "immediately harms the public by thwarting enforcement of an executive order issued by the President, based on his national security judgment."
Trump's executive order caused chaos at airports and among those reported to have been detained or turned away, including students, professors and green card holders. Critics have called it a "Muslim ban," which Trump has denied. The president has said the order is necessary to protect Americans from terrorism.
Saturday, the International Air Transport Association said in a note to airlines that the restrictions had been lifted and that "it is as if the Executive Order never existed."
Some visa holders from the seven affected nations arrived in the United States on Saturday after previously having been turned away.
Amir Rashidi, 55, of Seattle, said his niece flew into Boston on Saturday afternoon from Iran. Despite holding a green card, she had previously been barred from entering the United States.
Rashidi said he heard from a lawyer that Lufthansa was agreeing to board passengers with immigrant visas, and he contacted his niece, Mahsa Fazmali, to buy a ticket. She scrambled to board the next plane.
"She is happy, and we're very thankful," Rashidi told NBC News after his niece arrived at Boston's Logan International Airport.
"This is her first experience with democracy, where no one is above the law, even the president,” he said. "This is the America everyone knows outside the U.S."
Saira Rafiee, a doctoral student at the City University of New York, arrived at Boston's airport Saturday after having been stranded in Iran following a family vacation. After the order was put in place, she was stopped in Abu Dhabi and sent back to Tehran.
"I hope this all ends soon," she said.