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Airlines allow passengers from Muslim-majority countries after judge halts travel ban nationwide

Many international airlines are allowing nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries hit with President Donald Trump’s travel ban to board US-bound flights after a federal judge blocked the controversial ban nationwide.

US Customs and Border Protection informed major American airlines on a conference call late Friday that it was “back to business as usual,” effective immediately, an airline executive told CNN.

The State Department has reversed the cancellation of visas provisionally revoked after Trump’s executive order — so long as those visas were not stamped or marked as canceled.

The State Department has said fewer than 60,000 visas were revoked since Trump signed the order January 27. It was not immediately clear how many from that group will continue to be without their visas because their visas were physically canceled.

Also, the Department of Homeland Security has suspended all actions to implement the order.

The department will resume inspections of travelers as it did before Trump’s order, the agency’s acting press secretary, Gillian Christensen, said in a statement Saturday.

Trump’s executive order temporarily barred citizens from Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Iraq from entering the country. The move last week immediately prompted a slew of legal challenges.

Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, major operators that connect the Middle East to the United States, said Saturday they would allow citizens of the affected nations on their US-bound flights. Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways said those presenting a valid, unexpired visa or green card would also be allowed to board.

Air France also said it would accept passengers from the seven countries.

“Air France takes note of the decision of the American courts to suspend the presidential decree of 27 January 2017 prohibiting entry into the US for citizens of seven countries,” the airline said.

“Consequently, and subject to satisfying the conditions of entry into the United States, as from today Air France will accept passengers from the countries concerned on its flights to the US.”

Germany’s largest carrier, Lufthansa, made a similar announcement but warned that “short-notice changes to the immigration regulations may occur at any time.”

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, an advocate for immigrants praised the judge’s order and said her organization is trying to educate travelers and family members about the latest developments.

Camille Mackler of the New York Immigration Coalition said she expects arrivals to begin soon. She said it’s a “terrible, terrible thing” that some visas were marked as canceled and that people will have to begin the long, expensive process of replacing them.

“We’re going to continue to fight back,” she said. “This is wrong. This isn’t how you govern a country.”

No rush to the US

The travel ban has caused confusion in many countries, raising questions of whether people with dual nationality would still be barred from entering the country.

It first appeared that the Trump administration would strike deals country by country, but the Department of Homeland Security later clarified that the ban did not apply to dual nationals with passports from countries not on the list.

People traveling on diplomatic, NATO or UN visas were also exempt from the ban.

Despite the judge’s ruling and airlines’ announcements that the ban was halted, there appeared to be no rush to the United States from the regional hubs connecting passengers from the Middle East.

Dubai International Airport was quiet and orderly Saturday afternoon as two flights departed for New York and Los Angeles, a CNN journalist there said.

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport also was calm as flights departed as usual to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Boston and Miami.

US District Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee in Washington state, temporarily stopped Trump’s travel ban Friday night.

The White House quickly responded, calling the order “outrageous” and vowing to appeal.

“At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.

The White House dropped the word “outrageous” minutes later in a second statement.

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