Next steps in legal battle over the travel ban

Story highlights

  • The White House has vowed to fight the immigration ruling
  • Here are the next steps to watch as this legal war wages on

Washington (CNN)It has been less than 24 hours since a federal judge brought the enforcement of President Donald Trump's travel ban to a screeching halt -- and the legal battle over the ruling has only just begun.

The White House announced late Friday night that the Justice Department would file an emergency motion to stop US District Court Judge James Robart's block of the executive order, but it had yet to do so as of Saturday afternoon.
Here are the next steps to watch as this legal war wages on:

    More court filings to come

    First, the Justice Department might file an emergency motion in front of Robart asking that he "stay" his Friday night order and reverse himself.
    At the same time, DOJ lawyers could also file an emergency petition to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called a "writ of mandamus" -- essentially asking the higher court to press pause on Robart's order. A three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit could ask the Washington Attorney General's office (who filed the case) to submit legal briefs in response or the appellate court could simply schedule a hearing -- most likely by phone -- to hear this case on an expedited basis.
    Separately, another complaint against the travel ban was filed Friday in federal court in Washington, DC. US District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ordered DOJ in that case to file a response by 8:00 p.m. ET Saturday night and specifically address the applicability of the nationwide order in the Seattle case.
    As a result, these DC court filings might provide an early preview of how DOJ plans to attack Robart's order.

    What happens to travelers in the short term if the Seattle ruling is halted or overturned?

    Several federal agencies began Saturday to unwind their implementation of the travel ban in order to comply with Robart's ruling.
    The Department of Homeland Security announced it had "suspended any and all" actions to implement the travel ban and would resume standard inspections of travelers, as it did prior to the signing of the executive order. A State Department official also told CNN that the agency has now reversed its earlier cancellation of visas last week.
    But what happens to a foreign traveler in the air if Robart's order is halted or overturned by an appellate court?
    The ACLU told CNN that travelers are still protected in light of a ruling last week in a New York lawsuit that prohibited nationwide the removal of any individuals with approved refugee applications, green card holders, visa holders, and any other individuals legally authorized to be in the US. That court order was recently extended through February 21.
    What does that mean practically speaking?
    "If the Washington order is overturned by the Court of Appeals, anybody who reaches US soil will still be protected by (the order) barring the government from returning anyone to their home country pursuant to the executive order," explained Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, who argued the case in New York last week.
    What happens in court next is anybody's guess, but advocacy groups around the country are encouraging their clients to book flights immediately while Robart's order remains in place.