I wrote before about how during the first few chaotic days of Donald Trump’s Executive Orders restricting people from coming in, some Customs and Border Protection officials were coercing or tricking people into signing documents that invalidated their visas or even their permanent resident status. One such person was Suha Abushamma.
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 application, meaning she did not have a valid document with which to enter the U.S. She flew back to Saudi Arabia, where her family lives.
Normally, Abushamma would have been stuck, unable to return. But thanks to the fact that she is a medical resident at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, they were able to throw their weight around and get her in and she arrived today.
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.
Her return to the U.S. resulted from high-level discussions between lawyers for the clinic, outside lawyers working with them and officials at the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York. Even though Abushamma’s visa was cancelled, the U.S. Attorney’s office secured permission for her to return yesterday without problem, said David Rowan, the clinic’s chief legal officer.
Rowan would not discuss specifics of the Cleveland Clinic team’s conversations with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
When she landed in New York, Abushamma said she was greeted by Customs and Border Protection Agents “with smiling faces.” An agent said, “We’ve been waiting for you” and then escorted her to the room in which she was held for hours when she arrived on Jan. 28 before being sent home. “My favorite room at JFK,” she joked. “But this time, it literally took one minute.”
They gave her a form to sign, stamped her passport as if she had a H-1B visa (her original visa type before it was canceled) and escorted her to get her luggage.
The head of the Cleveland Clinic is a close advisor to Trump and in the crony world we live in, that might help explain why Abushamma was able to get back in so quickly and the quite different reception she now received. While it is very welcome news that she was able to resume her career, all the other people who do not have such powerful connections and institutional support may not be so lucky.