U.S. judge in Seattle has issued a temporary nationwide block on President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from seven mainly Muslim nations.
Federal Judge James Robart ruled against government lawyers’ claims that U.S. states did not have the standing to challenge Trump’s executive order.
Last week’s order has led to protests and confusion at U.S. airports.
Customs officials have told U.S. airlines that they can resume boarding banned travellers while a legal case is heard.
Gulf carrier Qatar Airways said that it would start accepting all passengers with valid travel documents.
The administration could again block them if it were to win an emergency stay. The justice department said that it will appeal against the Seattle ruling.
The White House described Trump’s directive as lawful and appropriate.
“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 said.
Trump’s order suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days.
There is also an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. Anyone arriving from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan or Yemen faces a 90-day visa suspension.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the executive order since it was signed by Trump a week ago but this is the first time a nationwide order has been granted, temporarily voiding the president’s ban.
But the order could be reinstated once the justice department files a motion to quash the Seattle court’s ruling.
In a statement, the White House initially called it is outrageous, before withdrawing that description.
The executive order caused chaos when it was suddenly introduced a week ago.
Some travellers arrived in the U.S. were turned back and protests broke out at airports across the country.
The Seattle judge issued his order on the grounds that the travel ban could be unconstitutional- an argument that could be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.
The visas of an estimated 60,000 people from the seven countries were cancelled because of the ban.
The customs department said those visas would now be reissued and the people involved were free to travel to the U.S.
The lawsuit against President Trump’s ban was initially filed by Washington State, with Minnesota joining later.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has described the ban as illegal and unconstitutional, because it discriminates against people on the ground of their religion and it denied people their rights without due process.
Trump has argued that his directive is aimed at protecting America.
Critics respond by saying that most terror attacks in the U.S. in recent years have been carried out by home-grown militants.
The president said that the visas would once again be issued once the most secure policies were in place and denied it was a ban on Muslims.
Courts in at least four other states- Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Michigan- are hearing cases challenging Trump’s executive order.
Earlier on Friday, a judge in Boston declined to extend a temporary ban that prohibited the detention or removal of foreigners legally authorised to come to America.
The ban, which only applied to Massachusetts, is due to expire in February 5.