Ruling temporarily ends detention of travellers with valid visas and prohibits their removal from the US.
A federal judge has blocked part of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, ruling that travellers who have already landed in the US with valid visas should not be sent back to their home countries.
Lawyers had filed a legal case in response to the order that includes a 90-day entry ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly’s ruling late on Saturday concerns dozens of people who were detained at US airports following Trump’s actions.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had filed a class action lawsuit against the ban, hailed the temporary stay of execution as a victory.
"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 US soil," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said.
ACLU said it would help 100 to 200 people with valid visas or refugee status, who found themselves detained in transit or at US airports after Trump signed the order late on Friday.
The legal case was raised after two Iraqis were held by law enforcement officials at John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) while trying to legally enter the country.
At least 12 travellers have been detained at JFK, prompting mass protests at the airport.
Less than 24 hours into the ban, Homeland Security said that at least 109 travellers had been denied entry into the US in total.
Trump signed an executive order that effectively denies entry to refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including those with green cards, who otherwise have permanent residence in the US.
Signing the order at the Pentagon, Trump said the move would help protect Americans from "terrorist" attacks.
"It’s been absolute chaos at airports across the country," Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, told Al Jazeera. "It’s definitely not making America safe again, it’s just making America hate again."
He added that the order "doesn’t only concern American Muslims, it concerns Americans. [Trump’s] hate rhetoric is turning into destructive policies."
In the case of war-torn Syria, Trump qualified the order’s scope by saying he would prioritise Syrian Christians entering as refugees.