By Andrew Nusca
January 29, 2017

A federal court judge on Saturday night ordered that refugees and other immigrants stuck at American airports should not be sent back to their home countries after President Donald Trump signed a surprise executive order blocking them from entering the U.S.

In an emergency hearing in a Brooklyn courthouse, Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York issued a stay of proceedings for part of Trump’s executive order, which bars citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—”to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”

Sending travelers home could cause them “irreparable harm,” Donnelly said.

The U.S. is “enjoined and restrained from, in any manner or by any means, removing individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen legally authorized to enter the United States,” according to the ruling. (Read the full text of the order here.)

The ruling does not allow detainees to enter the country. The judge did not address the constitutionality of Trump’s actions, which come just one week into his presidency.

“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,” said Lee Gelernt, who argued the case as deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a statement.

The ruling is immediate and applies nationwide. Attorneys are reportedly working pro bono through the weekend on behalf of detainees impacted by the order, which Trump signed on Friday evening. Between 100 and 200 people are affected, according to a New York Times estimate.

In addition, the U.S. government must provide a list of those immigrants who are affected by the change in policy, according to Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project.

The stay only affects those immigrants who were detained at U.S. airports or are currently in transit, according to ProPublica senior reporting fellow Jessica Huseman, and does not impact those who have not yet left for the United States.

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