Suha Abushamma, Sudanese Medical Resident Forced to Leave Country, Is Back in Cleveland

Cleveland Clinic leaders gathered today to announce some great news: Suha Abushamma, the Sudanese medical resident who's been working at the hospital, is back home in Cleveland.

After arriving at JFK International Airport in the wake of President Donald Trump's Muslim travel ban executive order, Abushamma was forced to leave the country and return to Saudi Arabia where she had been visiting family. She was threatened with deportation if she did not board a plane and depart that evening. Due to the hours of detention and chaos at the airport, Abushamma has since filed a lawsuit against Trump. (Her lawyers said today that they'll seek to dismiss that lawsuit.)

"I'm excited to continue my work here at the Cleveland Clinic," she said today before a large and enthusiastic crowd at the main campus. "I chose training here in the United States because it's the best training in the world." Her parents and siblings are physicians (or in training), as well, back home in Sudan.

Yesterday, the Clinic's board of directors met and discussed Abushamma's situation. There was still a degree of uncertainty about whether she'd be able to enter the U.S., but, of course, everything has worked out in the small window of opportunity afforded by the temporary restraining order imposed on the travel ban.

David Leopold, the local immigration rights attorney who has long represented the Clinic, lauded the hospital for how quickly and sincerely its high-ranking employees worked to address the situation as it was unfolding at JFK Airport and in the ensuing days. In the face of very difficult moments, Leopold said, Abushamma faced this unprecedented moment in history with good humor and cheer, working with attorneys and insisting to Customs and Border Protection officials that there was a federal court hearing under way on the matter of the travel ban.

Before the plane back to Saudi Arabia had even leveled off in mid-air, a federal judge had shot down portions of the travel ban, introducing a cruel sense of timing to the already draining events of the day.

An appeals court will be hearing the merits of a related restraining order this afternoon; Trump has been angrily tweeting about getting the travel ban reinstated for the past week. Abushamma's story is cause for great celebrations, as many other immigrants and refugees and visa holders remain outside of the U.S. to this day — a fact acknowledged at the Clinic press conference.

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About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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