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All eyes on San Francisco for Trump's immigration battle

Scenes in front of courthouse were quiet prior to hearings, but dozens gathered in favour of getting rid of Trump's ban
Braving the rainy weather, a few dozen protesters joined and began chanting “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!” (MEE/Susana Mendoza)

SAN FRANCISCO, United States - The United States on Tuesday was focused on a small courthouse here, just a few blocks off the city's main artery, Market Street. But most San Franciscans were not fully aware of the legal battle that was being fought inside.

A couple of hours before the hearing that was to decide if Trump's recent immigration ban would be restored, it was business as usual in the city. No one was in front of the building except a single anonymous protester, who had his face covered and refused to talk to anyone. That person was draped in the flags of the seven Middle Eastern nations who are now in the middle of the immigration storm.

In fact, many of the city's dwellers had no idea that the 9th District Court of Appeals would be one of the primary battlegrounds in the recent immigration ban initiated by Trump's administration.

Emma, who works at a coffee shop near the court, expressed shocked that things had gone this far. “I heard something but I wasn't fully aware of what was going on. But I am so glad they are fighting the ban, it doesn't make any sense that anyone can even propose it.”

'No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here'

As time drew closer to the hearing, the lone protester wasn’t alone anymore. Braving the rainy weather, a few dozen protesters joined and began chanting “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!”

For most of them, the fact that they have to protest against the immigration ban, is in itself a nightmare come true.

“I just can't believe I actually have to go out and protest something that is so anti-Constitutional and against basic human rights,” said Beth Cohen, who held a banner that read “No travel ban!”.

“This is a really sad time, our country's civil discourse should be about how we stand with our neighbour and we can't let this go on without resisting. Nothing seems to be off limits for this man”. Next to Cohen, another woman nodded in approval.

'I just can't believe I actually have to go out and protest something that is so anti-Constitutional'

“A schism has been there for a long while in our country, and now it's just showing in the open and people are flaunting it. They can call it whatever they want, this is clearly a ban against Muslims, because they were clear that they weren't going to forbid the entrance to Christians,” Kay Aull, who stood next to Cohen, told MEE.

At 3:00pm sharp, protesters held their phones close to their ears as they tuned into the hearing's live stream audio.

“I just can't listen without getting sick to my stomach,” Jonathan Weiner, who sported a Yarmulke, said. “This is so absolutely similar like what happened during the Holocaust that it shocks me to have to be here to defend the states that are fighting it. I'm more than frightened, I'm terrified, you can't just ban people based on religion, that is the beginning of the end. First, it's the Muslims, then the Mexicans and after that, what?” Weiner said, visibly shaken.

Both the media and the protesters were continuously interrupted by passers-by who wondered what the fuss was about. “Don't just look, join us!” exclaimed Susan Thomas, who decided to join the protest because she herself, is an immigrant.

“I'm from England and I'm just heartbroken for what is happening, I had to do something. I'm so grateful for the justices and the attorneys and everyone who is pushing against this insanity... people have to continue to write letters to our representatives and come together. I'm optimistic, I think we are going to win this battle today.”

“I don't think it's fair to say San Franciscans don't care about what is going on, I think we care a great deal. Look at the turnout for the airport protest, thousands showed up, but it was a Saturday,” Brad Taylor, who waved a No Ban No Wall sign, said.

“Honestly, people have to keep doing what they are doing, not only in San Francisco but in general, in California. We have to keep writing to Diane Feinstein (California's senator) and keep putting pressure on this administration,” he added.

Cautious optimism

As the panel of judges hammered away at Trump's administration's arguments inside the 9th District Court of Appeals, Karaman Mamand, a Kurdish Iraqi citizen, chatted cheerfully away with protesters.

“I'm surprised of this decision because honestly, Kurdish people have fought alongside with the US in Iraq and now, we can't travel!” Mamand, who is currently living in San Francisco with a student visa, said.

“I'm so lucky, because I came to this country on January 13, if I had waited longer, I wouldn't have been able to get in. Really, I'm so lucky!”

Karaman worked closely with the US government on issues dealing with education and women's affairs in Iraq, but now, as he claimed, he feels trapped in the country.

'I'm surprised of this decision because honestly, Kurdish people have fought alongside with the US in Iraq'

“First thing, I'm really thankful for the opportunity to study Law here, but it's amazing and sad that I now find myself unable to leave the country. I hope nothing happens back home and I have to leave, because I don't know if I'll be able to return to continue my studies,” Karaman told MEE.

Hopes were high as hearing attendees emerged from the building once it was over. Attorney Andrew Shalaby, who filed a lawsuit representing the state of Washington, was optimistic regarding the outcome.

“I'm pretty sure the judges will lean towards denying the reinstatement of the ban,” Shalaby said, “because two of the judges are Democrats and seem pretty favourable to our arguments during the hearing.”

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