LEVELAND — A Cleveland Clinic resident who was barred from the US following President Trump’s immigration order made a triumphant return to the hospital Tuesday, receiving loud applause and cheers from her colleagues.
Dr. Suha Abushamma told a crowd of clinic employees and journalists, “I want to say how happy I am to be back here in Cleveland with my friends, my fiance, and all the people I consider part of my family. I missed everyone so much.”
Abushamma, a first-year internal medicine resident at the clinic, arrived in the United States Monday afternoon, taking advantage of a stay of Trump’s immigration order issued by a federal judge in Seattle, said one of the clinic’s lawyers at a press conference. That order is being appealed by the Trump administration, but it created a window to allow many people to return to the US.
Her case became a rallying cry for immigrants, foreign doctors, and supporters who sharply criticized Trump’s order as antithetical to the values of the US and a blow to many sectors of our economy. The order was especially damaging to health care providers that rely heavily on a ready supply of foreign doctors, researchers, and laborers.
Abushamma’s circumstances also highlighted a politically dicey situation for the clinic, which had scheduled a fundraiser for later this month at Trump’s resort in Florida. The clinic was criticized for saying it would proceed with the fundraiser and for refraining from publicly opposing the president’s order.
But on Tuesday, Abushamma praised the clinic’s leadership, including its chief executive, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, for working behind the scenes to secure her return. “I’m beyond thankful for your support and never giving up on me,” she said. “Although this has been a challenge for me in many ways, today I am feeling much gratitude and looking forward to getting back to work and putting patients first.”
We're so happy to welcome Dr. Suha Abushamma back to Cleveland! Watch the moment she surprised her friends and closest colleagues. pic.twitter.com/ppgmpQFD81
— Cleveland Clinic (@ClevelandClinic) February 7, 2017
During a press conference to announce her return, Cleveland Clinic lawyers said Abushamma was granted a waiver to allow her to return to the US and that she is here legally under an H-1B visa. Abushamma is from Sudan, both her parents are internists and three siblings are in medical school in Sudan. Her status will not be affected by any future court decisions, although one of the clinic’s lawyers said he is advising his clients not to leave the country. “We have a very fluid situation in the US courts right now,” said the lawyer, David Leopold.
He and another attorney provided a moment-by-moment recounting of the chaotic circumstances surrounding Abushamma’s removal, which unfolded just before a judge issued an order preventing people in her situation from being removed from the US. Even as Abushamma protested and informed authorities she was awaiting the judge’s decision, she was hustled onto an airplane and flown to Saudi Arabia.
In the ensuing days, Abushamma kept in close contact with attorneys and other officials at the clinic who were working to secure her return to the US. After the ruling by the judge in Seattle, her lawyers worked swiftly to arrange her return.
During the press conference, Leopold read the text he received from Abushamma after she arrived at JFK Airport in New York. “Hi David. I’m out. I’m in front of the Dunkin Donuts Express. Where are you?”