A US federal judge has issued an emergency stay that temporarily blocks the government from sending people out of the country after they have landed at an American airport with valid visas.

The American Civil Liberties Union estimates the stay will affect 100 to 200 people detained at US airports or in transit, but government lawyers could not confirm that number.

Judge Ann Donnelly of the US District Court in New York made the order on Saturday.

The hearing was called after President Donald Trump issued an executive order blocking people from seven Muslim-majority from entering the US and putting a temporary halt to refugee admissions.

The Trump order has been widely attacked and led to large protests at airports in Dallas, Chicago, New York and elsewhere.

The ban affects travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Green card holders will not be allowed back in until they are re-screened.

The order seeks to prioritise refugees fleeing religious persecution.

In an earlier television interview, Trump said the measure was aimed at helping Christians in Syria.

Reuters

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A US federal judge has issued an emergency stay that temporarily blocks the government from sending people out of the country after they have landed at an American airport with valid visas. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates the stay will affect 100 to 200 people detained at US airports...