This past weekend, Donald Trump’s executive order, dubbed the ‘Muslim Ban,’ shook the world. But four female judges around the country stepped in to block the executive order, helping those stuck in airports find safety on American soil.
Protests ripped through airports at JFK, O’Hare, Dulles, and SFO Saturday afternoon against the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order, which was signed last Friday afternoon at 4:42pm, and was widely criticized by both liberals and conservatives for its lack of transparency, lack of consultation with proper government agencies, and Trump’s conflicts of interests within the Middle East.
The controversial Muslim Ban, prohibits refugees, green card holders and visitors from seven different Middle Eastern countries – from entering the U.S for a designated amount of time (refugees are not allowed to enter America for 120 days, citizens from the seven Muslim countries – including refugees- cannot enter for 90 days, and Syrian refugees are blocked indefinitely).
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) January 29, 2017
According to the BBC, The White House believed 109 people were being detained, while a few dozen more were being held in airports around the country. Another 173 people were prohibited from boarding their aircrafts to the United States, including students attending MIT, Yale, and Stanford.
Thousands travelled to America’s largest international airports Saturday to protest the ban. These airports also saw an influx of lawyers seeking to assist travelers. In New York, airport security did not allow those without passes to board the air train.
Protests continued on Sunday – both on the streets and at the airports in major and minor cities, including conservative areas like Little Rock, Raleigh-Durham, Nashville and Houston. The New York Battery Park protest was estimated to have over 10,000 people marching from the Statue of Liberty docks to city hall.
By the time Saturday night rolled around however, the ACLU and other organizations had filed petitions on behalf of those being detained. By the time the weekend was over, five judges – four of whom were female – had ruled against Trump’s executive order, each for varying reasons.
Judge Anne M. Donnelly was the first to rule around 9p.m. ET Saturday in Brooklyn, New York. According to the Washington Post, Donnely’s decision did not directly address the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order, though her order held that Trump’s ban may violate the Due Process Clause of the fifth amendment.
“Our own government presumably approved their entry to the country,” Donnelly said of her decision.
Donnely’s verdict stated that sending travelers back could cause “irreparable harm.” Her verdict was rumored to have stopped the immediate deportation of a flier back to Syria – a country currently engulfed in war.
Later that night, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia issued a temporary restraining order for the 63 people being held in Washington (Dulles) airport. Brinkema’s verdict issued that no passengers were allowed to be removed from U.S. soil for seven days, and that lawyers were to be granted to all permanent residents being detained.
Judge Brinkema is known for her no-games sentencing of previous high profile cases involving terrorists, including presiding over a 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui’s case in 2006, where she told him, “You came here to be a martyr in a great big band of glory, but to paraphrase the poet TS Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper.”
Early into Sunday morning, two more judges from Boston, Judges Allision Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Dein ruled that Trump’s executive order was likely unconstitutional to the rights of immigrants. This effectively cleared the way for lawful immigrants from the seven barred nations – Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Syria – to enter the US.
Though their ruling does challenge the constitutionality of President Trump’s executive order, Judge Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Dein are not easily deterred. Burroughs in particular has a reputation of bing whip-smart and fearless.
“She went after drug kingpins and against fraudsters,” Donald K.Stern, former US Attorney for Massachusetts who hired Burroughs remembers, “Or people who were either dangerous or powerful – it didn’t have an effect on her. She had a job to do.”
Additionally, Judge Thomas Zilly of Seattle granted an emergency stay of removal for two people detained.
As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick points out, the decision to overturn these executive orders has nothing to do with gender. However, “it seems wonderfully fitting, just a week after the Women’s March on Washington, that the fight against Trump will be taken up by female lawyers, advocates, and jurists and that they’ll be fighting alongside men.”
Although all detainees in Chicago and other airports were released over the weekend, as of Sunday afternoon, there were still detainees that remained held in airports.
The Department of Homeland security has released a statement saying that it will continue to uphold Trump’s executive orders.
Donald Trump for his part, has side-stepped both the emotional and logistical chaos of his executive order, stating that the rollout was orderly; “It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”