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Hundreds protest at SF airport as refugees are held by Trump order

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More than a thousand 1,000 protesters call for refugees to be released at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday. (Courtesy Gary McCoy)
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Hundreds protested San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, to condemn reports that some immigrants are being held at the airport under President Donald Trump’s executive order.

The detentions follow an executive order by President Donald Trump on Friday to halt the entrance into the U.S. of refugees of seven predominantly Muslim countries like Iraq, and Iran.

On Saturday morning an indeterminate number of refugees from countries like Iran and Iraq were held by customs agents at SFO, and as of Saturday afternoon, more than 1,000 protesters flooded SFO’s international terminal, prompting SFO officials to redirect traffic to the upper levels of the airport.

Unofficial counts from witnesses at the scene described the number of protesters later in the evening as well into the thousands.

“I was the first one of two lawyers on the scene. There’s been no progress,” said Susie Hwang, one of as many as two dozen local attorneys who responded to a call for attorneys at airports made by the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Above, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom apparently appears at the SFO protest.

Trump signed an executive order on Friday banning refugees and visa holders from entering the U.S. for 90 days, effecting only those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.

Syrian refugees, who are by the millions fleeing a brutal years-long civil war, were banned for an indefinite amount of time. Those from the seven effected countries with green cards will be let into the U.S. on a case by case basis, White House officials told reporters, according to news reports.

Hwang said one woman had been waiting for seven 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 her son had just finished a months-long vetting process to arrive.

“His day finally came. He was vetted,” Hwang said. “He was granted a VISA that yesterday would’ve gotten him into the U.S.”

His mother, the families of an unconfirmed number of refugees, and dozens of attorneys waited Saturday in an SFO lounge for answers. They’ve waited for more than nine hours without communication from customs officials, she said.

“Based on his religion, he is being persecuted and is in grave danger if he does go back,” Hwang said. “I am just so mad I cannot see straight. This is a complete disgrace to our country.”

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 national Council for American Islamic Relations said it would be filing suit on behalf of 20 more individuals on Monday.

“We are prepared to fight back against these racist executive orders and will defend and protect all communities and normalize resistance to Trump everywhere,” said Lara Kiswani, an organizer with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, in a news statement.

At 3 p.m. more than 1,000 protesters arrived at SFO to call for the release of the refugees.

“Let the lawyers in! Let the families out!” they chanted, according to video taken from the scene.

Protest against Muslim Ban at SFO

A video posted by Stuart Schuffman (@brokeassstuart) on

Above, video from local TV personality and San Francisco Examiner columnist Broke-Ass-Stuart, of the SFO protest.

By evening, protesters had entered the airport, chanting “Sanctuary for all! No ban, no wall!”

Jeff Figone, an airport duty manager at SFO, said the protesters were at the lower roadway of the airport at the arrivals level, which prompted airport officials to divert arrivals traffic to the upper level. He said there were about two dozen San Francisco Police Department officers present, monitoring the situation.

“The folks are well managed…and they’re just voicing their frustrations,” Figone said.

Frank Falcon, a local Customs and Border Protection spokesperson, referred questions about local enforcement of the order to the agency’s national office, declining to say whether the agency was enforcing the order in Bay Area airports.

Calls and emails to the national Customs and Border Protection public affairs office were not immediately returned.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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