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Cleveland Clinic Doctor Returns to America, But Many Still in Limbo Due to Trump Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Muslim Policies

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In a press conference today, the Cleveland Clinic announced that Dr. Suha Abushamma is safely back home and ready to resume caring for her patients again.

Charles Ornstein recently highlighted Dr. Abushamma’s story in a piece at ProPublica:

“A first-year resident at the Cleveland Clinic, she was forced to leave the U.S. hours after landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, Jan. 28. Abushamma, a Sudanese citizen, was given the choice of withdrawing her visa application ‘voluntarily’ or being forcibly deported and not allowed back to the U.S. for at least five years. She chose to withdraw her visa, meaning she does not currently have a valid document with which to enter the U.S. Her plane took off around the same time as a federal district judge in Brooklyn issued a temporary stay blocking the government from removing people like her. Abushamma said she asked an officer and supervisor with Customs and Border Protection to allow her to wait for the results of the hearing, but her request was denied.”

In a follow-up piece, Ornstein writes “In a clandestine mission that had the makings of a hostage rescue, the Cleveland Clinic and its lawyers arranged for medical resident Suha Abushamma to fly back to the United States yesterday, more than a week after she was forced to leave because of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.”

Today’s news is a welcome development for Dr. Abushamma, the Cleveland Clinic, her fiancé, friends, and patients.  Cleveland attorney David Leopold was part of the legal team that brought Abushamma back and described the joy his client felt upon touching back on US soil.  However, the Trump Administration continues to defend its Muslim ban in federal court, and other immigration-related Executive Orders remain in place.

“It took a team of lawyers with the backing of the Cleveland Clinic – at the highest level – to bring one Sudanese doctor back to her patients due to Trump’s discriminatory policies,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund.  “Yet the Trump Team continues to defend its refugee and Muslim ban.  They continue to build up their Deportation Force, and try to enlist state and local police into checking immigrants’ papers.  Trump and his team appear willfully blind to the fact that immigrants – of all statuses, from all countries – are vital members of the American family.  If Trump and his nativist advisers have their way, every single one of them will live their lives in fear of deportation, every single day.”

Tramonte continued: “This Administration is so cravenly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim that it’s willing to risk the health of fellow Americans to further its nativist ideology.”

In the New York Times, reporter Donald McNeil, Jr. writes:

“Foreign-born physicians have become crucial to the delivery of medical care in the United States. They work in small towns where there are no other doctors, in poor urban neighborhoods and in Veterans Affairs hospitals. Forty-two percent of office visits in rural America are with foreign-born physicians, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

…Across the United States, more than 15,000 doctors are from the seven Muslim-majority countries covered by the travel ban, according to The Medicus Firm, a firm that recruits doctors for hard-to-fill jobs. That includes almost 9,000 from Iran, almost 3,500 from Syria and more than 1,500 from Iraq.”

Tramonte concluded: “But it’s not only refugees, Muslim doctors, and innovators whose place in America is in limbo.  Trump’s team is going after farmworkers, childcare providers, and cleaners too.  Immigrants are present in every sector of our economy.  They are our relatives, neighbors, and friends.  And Americans of good conscience cannot simply stand by while Trump and his team go after them.”