Trump’s travel ban hits close to home


Zubair Jandali calms his wife, Suzanne Barakatat, during the protest over President Donald Trump’s immigration ban at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 (Lee Kin/ Xpress)

Countrywide protests broke out Saturday following Trump’s signing of the order that temporarily bans Syrian refugees and citizens of seven other predominantly Muslim countries.

On the same day, SF State student Amran Alsiday received a phone call.

Alsiday was told by family that his inlaw, Esa AlWasli, who was traveling to the U.S. after a two-year process to obtain a visa, was denied boarding after a layover in Turkey. He was barred from seeing his 9-month-old child for the first time.

“I thought it was a joke,” Alsiday, also a Muslim Student Association board member said. “I was in shock. I didn’t consider laws would move so quickly.” He said he hung up the phone and immediately got a headache.

“It’s crazy right now. A lot of my family members are scared,” Alsiday said. “A lot of them are not citizens.”

The order also suspends all other refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, and blocks citizens traveling to the U.S. from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

Thousands of protesters flooded SFO over the weekend. In response to both these protests and the actions of the American Civil Liberties Union, detainees who traveled from affected countries were able to reunite with their loved ones around 3 p.m. on Sunday amid roaring cheers from the crowd.

“Everyone should be welcome from every country,” said Ruqaiya Modan, SF State student and a Muslim Students Association board member. “Islam is not about terrorism. Islam is about peace.”

Alsiday fears the ban will jeopardize the safety of many of his family members who are in the U.S. with green cards, and might stop his family from visiting each other between Yemen and America. He worries how Muslim American citizens like himself will be treated because of the rhetoric of the Trump administration.

According to Alsiday, the country-wide protests and their sense of community this past weekend have given him hope..

“We have to keep that fire,” Alsiday said. “We have to keep the awareness up.”

Rode Hartsough, an 8-year-old San Francisco resident, carries a picket sign with the Statute of Liberty poem written on it at the arriving terminals of the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 (Courtesy of Janett Perez).

Groups of protesters were scattered throughout the second and third levels of SFO. Police put up barriers to allow arriving travelers a pathway to exit the airport, but the pickup zone at level 2 arrivals was closed as protesters spilled into the streets.

The crowd chanted “no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” to the beat of drums and a circling brass band, while other people held signs that read “welcome home” and “make America think again.”

“Seeing people come together from all walks of life and all nationalities is really inspiring,” said protester Magdalena Black. “That was the most profound aspect of this experience; the unity and visibility of diversity.”

Upstairs, security checkpoints A and G were blockaded by police in riot gear as hundreds of people surrounded the barriers. Protesters occupied the escalators to shut down the international terminal.

Many attendees expressed fear that the U.S. is repeating history, specifically the year of 1942, when the U.S. rejected hundreds of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.

“I’m Jewish, and I have a fear of seeing another Holocaust,” Rachel Lindy said. “This is very much reverberating Jewish bans where millions of people lost their lives.”

“When I went out and saw the crowd I felt really good, I was pretty emotional about it,” Modan said. “It was a really positive energy.”

No groups of counter-protesters were present.

Some travelers wandered through the crowds trying to figure out where to enter a security checkpoint. SFO employees were scattered throughout the terminal to direct people and answer questions.

The official SFO Twitter account told international travelers to go to Terminal 3, where buses were stationed to drop people off at their boarding area.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” a frustrated traveler said aloud as he discovered the second escalator had been shut down by protesters.

Lawyers were scattered at SFO and wore signs on their chests reading “lawyer” to identify themselves and make themselves available.

Many legal observers also attended the protest to ensure that police and protester interactions would be monitored closely for any misconduct.

Zahra Billoo, civil rights lawyer and executive director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, spoke about her experiences protesting over the weekend at an emergency discussion held at SF State on Monday.

“We want to make sure that our community members know that they can hold their elected officials accountable, but also that our elected officials can draw from the experiences and knowledge that our community members provide,” Billoo said.

The California State University released a joint statement Monday afternoon that condemned Trump’s executive order.

“It is time for the University to do the right thing and act on what it claims that it stands for and provide San Francisco State as a place for social justice,” said Rabab Abdulhadi, SF State Professor in Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, at the campus meeting.

Alsiday’s family is left to decide if they should hire an immigration lawyer or wait to see if the order will be repealed by the courts.

They do not know when, or if, Esa AlWasli will hold his newborn baby. Even though both his wife and child are U.S. citizens, under the travel ban, it is not likely that they will see each other soon.

“If we don’t fight right now, we’re gonna lose everything,” Alsiday said. “This is the future.”