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With Trump travel ban still blocked, travellers head to US
[PALM BEACH, United States] A US appeals court has rejected a government request to reinstate President Donald Trump's controversial immigration ban, prompting travelers from seven mainly Muslim nations to hurry to enter the country before the next legal twist.
The early-morning ruling from a federal appeals court was the latest chapter in a saga which began on January 27, when Mr Trump issued a blanket ban on all refugees, and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Mr Trump had not commented on the appeals ruling by mid-afternoon and was uncharacteristically silent on Twitter but Vice-President Mike Pence, who made the rounds on Sunday's political talk shows, called the decision "frustrating."
"We will move very quickly," Mr Pence told Fox News. "We are going to win the arguments because we will take the steps necessary to protect the country, which the president of the United States has the authority to do."
On Saturday, the Manhattan property mogul had unleashed a string of fiery tweets defending his policy and attacking federal judge James Robart, who on Friday blocked the ban nationwide pending a wider legal review.
"The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, in rare criticism of a judge by a sitting president.
Asked by multiple networks whether Mr Trump's comment about Judge Robart was out of line, Mr Pence defended his boss, saying he was not questioning the judge's legitimacy but simply expressing his disagreement with the ruling.
"Every president has a right to be critical of the other branches of the federal government," Mr Pence told CBS News.
Mr Trump's executive order slapped a blanket ban on entry for nationals of the seven countries for 90 days and barred all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely.
In an appeal filed late Saturday, the Justice Department said that suspending the ban was causing "irreparable harm" to the American public.
It said Judge Robart's ruling had run afoul of constitutional separation of powers, and "second-guesses the president's national security judgment."
But in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request calling for the travel ban to be immediately reinstated, without offering a reason.
The court asked the states of Washington and Minnesota, which had filed the original suit over the ban, to provide additional documents by 0759 GMT Monday.
And the Justice Department was given until 2300 GMT Monday to complete its legal dossier.
Meanwhile, in line with Judge Robart's ruling, travelers from the targeted countries with valid visas began arriving on American soil, while others prepared to set off for the United States.
In New York, 33-year-old Sudanese doctor Kamal Fadlalla rejoiced - after a week blocked in his home country, he was back in the Big Apple with friends and colleagues.
"It feels great," Judge Fadlalla told AFP on Sunday at John F. Kennedy International Airport. "It was a tough week actually."
In Syria, a 25-year-old law graduate who asked not to be named said he was driving to Beirut on Sunday to catch a flight to Amman and then a connecting flight to New York.
"I jumped up and haven't been able to sleep since. I'm ecstatic," the man told AFP.
In Iran, a 30-year-old woman told AFP she had rebooked her tickets to the United States and was ready to travel late Sunday to see her brother.
"Until yesterday, I was completely disappointed. We have some new hope after this news, but it's 50-50. I am willing to take this risk," said the woman from the city of Shiraz, who did not want to give her name.
The State Department has said visa holders from the seven countries are allowed to travel to the US as long as their documents have not been "physically canceled."
The department had earlier said up to 60,000 people had their visas revoked as a result of Mr Trump's order.
The restrictions have fueled numerous protests at home and abroad - from London to Washington and Palm Beach, where Mr Trump was spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago retreat - now dubbed the "Winter White House."
Hundreds of expatriate workers rallied Sunday in Hong Kong - many of them women from the Philippines or mainly Muslim Indonesia.
Also on Sunday, dozens of Trump supporters rallied in front of Trump Tower in New York, urging Americans to give him a chance - but they ended up in a face-off with a dozen counter-protesters.
"He's been in office less than three weeks - he's entitled to have a fair shot and to run the government the way he wants to," said Cindy Grosz, one of the co-organisers.