President Donald Trump's travel ban did not appear to affect a Syrian man's attempts to bring his wife and young daughter to Wisconsin, U.S. Justice Department attorneys told a federal judge Friday, noting that the family's asylum applications were still being processed.
The department's court filing provides clarity on the administration's position following challenges to the executive order that Trump signed Jan. 27 but has since been put on hold. The order had temporarily barred travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria.
The filing argues that the government stopped processing asylum applications following Trump's executive order, but reversed course after a federal judge in Washington state put the ban on hold on Feb. 3. Justice Department attorneys said that "based on a preliminary review, it does not appear" that the man's petitions were affected by the stoppage.
The ban caused widespread confusion and spawned dozens of lawsuits. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had about 7,420 pending asylum applications at the end of 2016, according to the most recent data available.
The Syrian man in Wisconsin received asylum status in 2016. He filed a lawsuit in federal court in Madison on Monday, asking a judge to declare the ban unconstitutional as applied to his wife and daughter's applications and to promptly issue them visas.
The man filed the lawsuit anonymously because his wife and 3-year-old daughter are living in hiding in Syria and he fears they could be killed.
In its response to the lawsuit Friday, the Justice Department noted that the man's application had been expedited at the request of Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat. The filing also asked that the lawsuit be halted until Trump issues a new version of his executive order. Trump has said he plans to issue a new travel ban next week but no details have been released.
U.S. District Court Judge William Conley in Madison declared the man's demands moot on Friday, noting the Trump administration has resumed processing applications. Conley, who was appointed to the federal bench in Wisconsin by former President Barack Obama, noted a new draft of the executive order could change things and requested the man check in on March 22.
Vince Levy, an attorney for the Syrian man, said in a statement that his client is relieved to hear his family's applications are being processed. But he said his legal team stands ready if the new order violates the man's constitutional rights.