Some immigrants have reportedly been held at San Francisco International Airport since Saturday morning following President Donald Trump's recent executive order, banning entry to the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority countries.
That decree prompted flocks of protesters to converge on the airport's arrival area and the international terminal to voice frustration with the new statute. Those groans turned to some cheers later in the evening after word came down that a temporary stay would prevent people with valid visas being held at airports from being deported.
The protesters gathered at 3 p.m. at SFO after news broke Friday that Trump's order had taken effect immediately, with refugees and people from affected nations being stopped and detained at airports.
Police at first kept the protesters on the sidewalk, but as the crowd grew they spilled into the street blocking all traffic at the international arrivals terminal. They later swarmed into the terminal as immigration advocate attorneys tried to access people detained inside. The protesters chanted, "Let the families out, let the lawyers in."
The American Civil Liberties Union announced Saturday that it was taking legal action on behalf of two individuals detained in New York under the order. The ACLU said this evening that an emergency stay had been granted by a federal judge, blocking deportations from the order. The National Council for American Islamic Relations said it would be filing suit on behalf of 20 more individuals on Monday.
Trump's order bans citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country and blocks any refugees from entering for 120 days. Refugees from Syria are blocked indefinitely.
Lara Kiswani, an organizer with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said earlier Saturday, "We have lawyers currently at SFO. What we're not clear about is who or what type of families are being held, whether they're from Syria or Iran or other countries, we don't know for certain."
Attorney Susie Hwang said there were about a dozen attorneys who arrived at the airport's International Terminal in response to a call from the International Refugee Assistance Project asking attorneys to help immigrants being detained at airports across the country.
"I'm concerned about the abuse of law and the disregard for the constitution," Hwang said of Trump's order.
Hwang said several families have been at the airport waiting for several hours to hear word about whether their loved ones will be allowed to leave the airport or returned back to their countries.
According to Hwang, one woman had been waiting for hours for her 30-year-old son, who arrived at the airport from Iran early Saturday morning. The woman received asylum in the U.S. six years ago and is hoping her son will as well.
"Based on his religion, he is being persecuted and is in grave danger if he does go back," Hwang said.
Saturday evening, Hwang said customs officials released one woman from Iran with a green card after they held and questioned her.
Mozhgan Sorkhabi of Novato said her father, who lives in Iran and has a green card, was detained in San Francisco for six hours.
"We were really worried they were going to send back," Sorkhabi said. "He's not a strong man. He's 80 years old."
Palo Alto attorney Buzz Frahn was among several attorneys who volunteered their services to anyone who was stopped at the airport. Officials were not allowing attorneys to speak with any of the people who were reportedly being detained, he alleged.
Promising in an email to "[stand] up for what's right," Frahn said, "This blatantly unconstitutional [executive] order, discriminating on the basis of religion, is fundamentally wrong."
Outrage in the Bay Area reached a fevered pitch Saturday.
Determined to speak out against what they believe is outright unconstitutional, activists organized a #MuslimBan protest at 3 p.m. at the international arrivals section of San Francisco International Aiport. Protesters carried signs that read #NotInOurName, #NeverAgain, END the #MuslimBan and I STAND WITH MUSLIM TRAVELERs.
Witnesses estimated that hundreds of people showed up, forcing police to close the arrivals area.
"THIS BAN IS RACISM, PURE AND SIMPLE," organizers, who are known as #TheResistance, wrote on a MeetUp page. "Unadulterated, unapologetic xenophobia, completely unnecessary, Unconstitutional, and Unamerican."
They expressed dismay at the fact that travelers from largely Muslim countries are being stopped at airports, even if they are permanent residents of the United States.
That was the case with a Sudanese graduate student from Stanford University, who was stopped at JFK Airport despite being a green card holder, according to university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin.
Lapin said the woman is "still in the New York area getting some rest," after which she will return to the Palo Alto campus.
"Yes, it is true she was detained, and, yes, the university has offered her support," she confirmed.
Politicians with Bay Area ties also pledged their support to those affected by the executive order. California's Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, joined the protesters in San Francisco.
"People are happy to see me and they’re pretty pissed off because they want me to get in there and get those people out," he said regarding the situation involving people being detained at the airport. "Certain things I can do. Certain things I can't do."
Ed Lee, the current mayor of the city by the bay, condemned Trump's order while simultaneously applauding the ruling to block the president's immigration stance.
"As the son of Chinese immigrants, I am disgusted by the president’s executive order to target the Muslim community and ban immigrants from entering the United States," he said in a statement. "Our country was built by immigrants in search of religious freedom and a life free of persecution and violence. These actions are a direct betrayal of those American values. We cannot turn our backs on those looking for a better, safer life for themselves and their children."