Skip to main content


Despite Judge's Order, a Cleveland Clinic Doctor Still Can't Come Back to U.S.

By ProPublica  
   February 07, 2017

Suha Abushamma, MD, a Cleveland Clinic medical resident, chose on Jan. 28 to withdraw her visa rather than to be deported and does not have a valid document with which to re-enter the U.S.

This article first appeared February 6, 2017 on ProPublica.

By Charles Ornstein

Joyous homecomings and family reunions broke out at airports across the country after a federal judge in Washington state blocked the implementation of President Donald Trump's order barring visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

But Dr. Suha Abushamma, a Cleveland Clinic medical resident, is still abroad and it's not clear she's going to be allowed home anytime soon.

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.

"My heart sank when she told me she was on that plane," David Leopold, a lawyer who was working with Abushamma, previously told ProPublica. "It was one of the hardest moments I've ever had being a lawyer."

Lawyers are suing on Abushamma's behalf, seeking an order that would allow her to come back to the U.S. The lawsuit contends that Abushamma was denied access to legal advice and was unlawfully removed. Abushamma is currently in Saudi Arabia, where her family lives. A hearing in her case is set for Feb. 15.

If Abushamma loses her suit, she'll have to reapply for a visa, which can be a lengthy process.

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.