As peaceful protests started to gather attention at airports across the country yesterday, 26-year-old Suha Abushamma was on a flight from New York to Saudi Arabia, forced to leave the country just after arriving and just before a federal judge in New York issued a temporary stay on enforcing Trump's order on those who had arrived or were in transit as it took effect and ended up detained in airports.
Abushamma was born in Saudi Arabia and holds a passport from Sudan, one of the seven countries affected by Trump's executive order (aka the Muslim Ban) that barred visitors from those Muslim-majority nations for the next 90 days. She is an internal medicine resident at the Cleveland Clinic and holds an H-1B visa. And she, like many others who had departed for fun, business or family reasons, had no idea when she left of the timing or broad definition of Trump's order and that she wouldn't be allowed back. (A CNN report indicates
very few, including the Department of Homeland Security, would have had any idea except for Trump and his inner circle who reportedly declined to use lawyers while crafting the order.)
Here's how her last week went, according to her interview with Pro Publica.
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.”
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 to help people — that’s it,” she said. “There’s no other reason.”
The Clinic issued a statement confirming that it's working on solutions for Abushamma and the other employees affected by the ban.
Recent immigration action taken by the White House 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.
Relatedly, there's a planned protest
at Cleveland Hopkins Airport at 2 p.m. today and a march planned from Market Garden in Ohio City to City Hall at 12:30 p.m. on Monday.