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Friday, January 18, 2019

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Hours after landing in New York on Saturday, a doctor at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic was forced to leave the country based on an executive order issued by President Donald Trump that bans visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.

Her flight to Saudi Arabia took off minutes before a federal judge in New York put a temporary stay on turning back people in such situations.

Suha Abushamma, 26, is in the first year of an Internal Medicine residency program at the clinic and held an H-1B visa for workers in “specialty occupations.” Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, she holds a passport from Sudan, one of the seven countries from which Trump barred visitors.

On Saturday evening, Abushamma was forced to make a choice by Customs and Border Protection agents: She could leave the country voluntarily and withdraw her visa — or she could be forcibly deported, which would have prevented her from coming back to the United States for at least five years. The latter also would have resulted in a permanent black mark on her immigration record.

She asked for a delay but was refused, she said in a FaceTime interview with ProPublica while she was flying over the Atlantic on her way back to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not one of the countries on Trump’s list, but because Abushamma’s passport is from Sudan, she was told she is covered by the executive order.

“I’m only in this country to be a doctor, to work and help people — that’s it,” she said. “There’s no other reason.”

David Leopold, a prominent immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Assocation, had been in contact with Abushamma for hours and was trying to help her stay. He said at one point he told her to give the phone to a Customs and Border Protection agent so he could argue her case.

The agent refused to allow her to delay her flight while the hearing in the Brooklyn federal courthouse was proceeding. On Saturday night, District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly put a stay on deporting people who hand landed in the U.S. and were covered by the executive order.

“My heart sank when she told me she was on that plane,” Leopold said of Abushamma. “It was one of the hardest moments I’ve ever had being a lawyer.”

Abushamma had left the U.S. Monday to visit family in Saudi Arabia and then travel to Sudan. Friends alerted her on Wednesday about the possibility that Trump would sign an executive order that could make it difficult for her to return. Though she had planned to be out of the country for two more weeks, she moved quickly to change her plans, obtain a new visa, and come back to the U.S. early.

“She picked up her passport from the U.S. embassy, changed her flight, and came as quickly as she could, but she wasn’t able to make the stroke of the pen,” said her friend, Faris El-Khider, who is a gastroenterology fellow at the Cleveland Clinic and is from Sudan. “She was basically racing against Trump.”

A spokesperson for the Cleveland Clinic said the institution was still gathering details about the situation, but ProPublica was able to verify Abushamma’s residency at the clinic through online records.

Abushamma said she landed in New York a little after 11 a.m. Saturday, hoping that she would be let in. At first, her experience with Customs and Border Protection agents seemed normal, until she was directed into a holding area at Terminal One at John F. Kennedy Airport, where she saw another doctor from Iran who works at the Cleveland Clinic. That doctor and her husband both have green cards (making them permanent U.S. residents) and, after a few hours, they were allowed into the country.

Abushamma said she watched as others were questioned—she said there were 30 or more people in the room. Those with green cards, including her colleague, were eventually allowed entry to the country. Those with visas were not.

She texted with her friend El-Khider, who desperately sought legal help for her and advised her to try to stay as long as she could while the matter headed to court.

She said she knew she was in trouble when a representative for Saudi Airlines approached her and told her she would have to book a flight home. Then an officer, whose name she wrote down as T. Lam, told her her choices: ”Either to withdraw my visa … so it wouldn’t leave a negative mark on my profile … or the second option was to refuse to withdraw” and be banned from the U.S. for five years. “I told them at that point I already had lawyers working on my case. I just need a few more hours … They absolutely refused. I even talked to the supervisor.”

According to FlightAware, a flight tracking website, the plane pushed back from the gate at 8:29 p.m. and took off at 8:53 p.m. The earliest reports of the judge’s stay of deportations under the executive order came at around 9 p.m.

“I’m happy for the people that are held,” she said. “I met a really bright young female from Iran who’s studying at NYU. Her flight was at 11. I’m happy for her that she at least gets to go in. I’m frustrated, but it’s the way it is.”

Abushamma said she couldn’t believe it when she was offered an interview with the Cleveland Clinic, let alone the residency. “My parents are both doctors. They know the Cleveland Clinic. They know all the big names in the U.S. so they were even more excited than I was.”

Abushamma had to select when to take her vacation last spring, two months before she began working at the clinic. Because there are dozens of residents in the program, creating a calendar takes advanced planning. She decided to go home in late January because she’d had visits from her parents earlier in 2016. “I thought it would be a good time for me to see my family.”

When she departed the U.S. last Monday, she said, “there was no talk at that point” about Trump’s executive order.

Two days later, as word began to leak about the president’s plans, Abushamma said she rushed to come back. She had a visa interview on Wednesday and the officer at the U.S. consulate was “super helpful,” telling her about the rumored executive order and advising her to go back as soon as possible. The consulate worker even issued her a visa in one day when it usually takes three business days. “Exactly what she said was ‘I don’t want your patients not to have you.’”

Abushamma received her passport back with the newly issued visa on Friday and booked the first flight out Saturday morning, leaving at 6 a.m. Saudi time. “I knew he signed something. I didn’t know the exact details of it,” she said. “I thought there might be some changes to it that didn’t affect me. I just went with great hopes that I would go in.”

Asked what she would do when she landed back in Saudi Arabia, Abushamma said she would try to see if she could get a waiver for the 90-day period in which no visitors from the seven countries are allowed.

Abushamma’s friend El-Khider said he might have found himself in her situation. Though he is a green card holder, he was planning to leave the country last Wednesday to visit Sudan. At the airport, he heard about Trump’s order and decided not to leave. “By the time I got to the airport, I thought wait a minute. I canceled my flight and my friend drove me back to my house.”

Leopold, the immigration lawyer, said now that Abushamma has left the U.S. and “voluntarily” canceled her visa, she may not be able to return anytime soon.‬

“She’s not going to be able to get a visa for at least 90 days,” he said. “She’s already been removed, so I think it’s over. This is heartbreaking.”

Update, Jan. 29: In a statement released this morning, the Cleveland Clinic did not refer to Abushamma directly but said the recent immigration action “has caused a great deal of uncertainty and has impacted some of our employees who are traveling overseas. We are fully committed and actively working toward the safe return of any of our employees who have been affected by this action.’ The clinic’s CEO, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, was considered by President Donald Trump for Secretary of Veterans Affairs but withdrew from consideration. He is a member of a new panel of 16 business leaders advising Trump on the way in which the government affects economic growth.

IMAGE: Suha Abushamma (Courtesy Faris El-Khider)

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22 responses to “Hours After Landing In New York, Doctor Forced To Leave U.S. By Trump’s Order”

  1. So, this is one of the new salvos in the war against over half of humanity being waged by Trump and the GOP. Not only are people in need of adequate healthcare and social service, women, blacks and Latinos in the cross-hairs of a depraved lot of individuals who refer to themselves as ‘Conservatives”, but Religion, God, and Muslims are added to the list of targets.
    Naturally, the Essence of God is so beyond the attacks of the GOP that it is blasphemous even to hint at such a connection of the effrontery of Trump and the GOP to impact God.

    Trump is the lens that focuses the hate, fear, and contempt of petty-minded little people in America who identify more with the Philistines of old than with Peter and the other disciples, with Hamza and Ali, and with Abdu’l Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

    The tiresome jack-hammer repetition of simple-minded phrases like “protect our people…”, “America Only”, “America First” are childish and ludicrous, are so remote from the teachings and Spirit imparted by Jesus as to render those who repeat them to be in the camp of Satan rather than aligned with God.

    It appears unlikely that Trump will ever rise above the satanic personae he has chosen to wrap himself in. Stuffed in with Trump are millions of others, wrapped together like bits of meat and melted cheese in a burrito of American Isolationism—with only your soul as the price to be paid to be stuffed in this accursed choice of wrap with Trump sauce(bland) added.

  2. Trump’s cruelty, as well as the GOP’s for allowing the scenario described above to unfold, should be an indelible “black mark” on their records etched clearly on a crysolite tablet to be presented him and those members of the GOP who allowed this, upon their entry into the next world when their final day in this realm comes up.

    There are consequences, seen and unseen, for all of us, dependent on how we act and treat others. Apparently, Donald and the majority of the GOP never learned this from their inconsequential and uneventful visits to Churches/Synagogues all those Sunday’s or Saturday’s.

    • Just A Citizen says:

      Funny how you bleeding hearts and self righteous are more emotionally upset than the lady in the article.

      Could it be your outrage is ginned up because you are simply outraged in general? Maybe you should follow some of your own advice and CHILL a little.

      • Aaron Zanzibari says:

        Funny that your cold icy heart can still pump blood through your arteries.

        • Just A Citizen says:

          I use my brain to think with and make decisions. Not the adrenaline pumping through my veins.

          I question everything and look for multiple sources, apply logic to issues to ferret out the B.S..

          So I will live with my cold icy heart, because I am Man and as such I am a rational being.

          Thinking is hard work, but that is no reason to avoid it.

          • Aaron Zanzibari says:

            You say that you use your brain to think, but so far all you’ve shown is guts and visceral as is evident by the vehemence in your response. Take a deep breath, divorce yourself from that adrenaline, and think cooly and dispassionately about the subject at hand.
            What is the subject you ask? The subject is about America adopting a circle the wagons mentality, similar to what many of your ancestors had when they first met Native Americans.
            And what did those settlers do? They reacted as though the Indigenous peoples with darker skins, a way of life unknown to the settlers, and therefore must pose a danger.

            Fast forward to the present. Now you and I are on land taken by force, and not new immigrants are arriving. A few may have been involved in terrorism, but you don’t know which ones. Therefore, to make things easy for you, you conveniently decide that all Muslims are a risk. If black folks held the same reactions as you, then would they not have been justified in hindsight in locking up your forebears, arresting them and/or killing them given the other atrocities done by other Native Americans having heard of your previous encounters with Native Americans?
            Do you see where I’m trying to expose you to? You’re full of contradictions and expect others to yield to you when previously you didn’t yield without killing and retaliating.

            Time for you, Daniel, to move beyond the atavistic and primeval reactions based on fear of what you suppose might happen.

          • Independent1 says:

            Fact is, that as far as records show, no immigrants from the 6 Muslim countries Trump has in his ban have been documented to have killed any Americans over the past 2-3 decades (Trup has no business interests in those 6 countries). While there are 7 Muslim countries Trump didn’t include in his ban, because he has business interests in those countries; and in at least 4 of the countries not in Trump’s ban, al Qaeda and ISIS have active cells; and immigrants from those countries have been involved in killing over 3,000 Americans since the late 1970s. So Trump’s ban has nothing to do with trying to protect America from a terrorist attack – the ban is just one more Trump sham/con job.

          • Just A Citizen says:

            My ancestors were on both sides of the wagon circle. And trust me, the Natives were a danger to those on the inside.

            They did not get overrun due to lack of effort in killing the Europeans. They just lacked the technology and eventually the numbers.

          • Independent1 says:

            Especially when you don’t have one brain cell working with which to think like you clearly prove with each post.

      • I Am Helpy says:

        OK thanks for explaining that racism is cool with you, traitor scum.

      • Aaron Zanzibari says:

        Just a citizen who is a cold and heartless, tell me this—Did your parents share the same hate and fear that you do? Did your parents teach you NOT to have a bleeding heart? Was your religious upbringing just a case of pearls being cast before a swine as mentioned by Jesus?
        You and Trump failed miserably to develop a proper human aspect—more closer to an animal you and he are, than to being a human being.
        How long must you persist in exaltation of being more animal-like than being a human. A real human is able to show compassion(what you call a bleeding heart) while a cruel and animal-like person discounts empathy(a bleeding heart) as a sign of weakness.
        Is this how you want us to think of you? Is this the aspect you’ll bring before your Creator once you depart this earthly realm?

        Once you leave, there is no coming back to gain what you failed to develop, so stop the worship of politics and let your heart “bleed”. Such a heart is beloved of God, while a cold and stony heart will be turned away, as Satan was cast out because he lacked a properly developed heart. Just so you know, homey. Will you not learn?

      • Aaron Zanzibari says:

        Just a citizen who is cold and heartless, tell me this—Did your parents share the same hate and fear that you do? Did your parents teach you NOT to have a bleeding heart? Was your religious upbringing just a case of pearls being cast before a swine as mentioned by Jesus?

        You and Trump failed miserably to develop a proper human aspect—more closer to an animal you and he are, than to being a human being.
        How long must you persist in exaltation of being more animal-like than being a human. A real human is able to show compassion(what you call a bleeding heart) while a cruel and animal-like person discounts empathy(a bleeding heart) as a sign of weakness.
        Is this how you want us to think of you? Is this the aspect you’ll bring before your Creator once you depart this earthly realm?

        Once you leave, there is no coming back to gain what you failed to develop, so stop the worship of politics and let your heart “bleed”. Such a heart is beloved of God, while a cold and stony heart will be turned away, as Satan was cast out because he lacked a properly developed heart. Just so you know, homey. Will you not learn what you failed to learn up to now in your life??

        • Just A Citizen says:

          PROJECTION alert.

          Save your fingers. You are having zero impact, except to embarrass yourself.

          • I Am Helpy says:

            Hmmm yes, it’s weird that you think that denying your obvious treason will make a difference, traitor.

            We are coming for you.

      • I Am Helpy says:

        OK sorry you’re mad your coup is collapsing, traitor.

        We are coming for you.

  3. Mama Bear says:

    11,000 Americans were killed in this country by gun violence last year.
    54 Americans were killed by terrorists (49 of which were killed in the Pulse Nightclub which was arguably a hate crime against gays).
    Now tell me again why we are trying to regulate Muslim people instead of guns?
    What are we going to do?

    • Just A Citizen says:

      Mama

      Who is trying to regulate Muslim people?. Well besides all the militant radicals in the Mid. East killing or trying to rule over the other Muslims.

      • I Am Helpy says:

        Sorry you can’t read good! Maybe it was the Nazi home schooling at your Nazi militia compound, you treasonous un-American swine. You scum. You traitor.

        We are coming for you.

  4. RED says:

    Ahh, America, what a country where bombing seven different countries, killing innocents, women, children, anyone is gleefully funded at greater levels each year but allowing entry of a person sworn to provide care to the sick MUST GO!! I truly am ashamed to be a citizen of this dying, disgusting country. My only hope is that the violence and revolt that is coming is quick and bloodless as possible, although it won’t be completely bloodless, the reality is blood is spilled in this country every day by the violent state thugs in blue and the vicious assault on the poor by government and corporation. And then hopefully the survivors can build a better society than the one we have allowed to rot the soul of this one.

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