A Syrian doctor studying at Brown University may have to give up his goal of returning to the United States after spending weeks stranded in Turkey following President Donald Trump's two travel bans, which primarily impact people from Muslim-majority countries.
Khaled Almilaji, M.D., a physician who has spent years involved in humanitarian efforts in Syria, enrolled at Brown last fall to study public health, according to an article from the Providence Journal. He left the U.S. on January 1 to travel to Turkey to check up on his work for Syrians—which led to six months of jail and torture early in the country’s ongoing civil war and included efforts to vaccinate more than 1 million Syrian children against polio—and had his student visa revoked before Trump even took office.
Almilaji’s alternative plan to reunite with his pregnant wife and fellow doctor, Jehan Mouhsen, M.D., may be to move his family to Canada and continue his studies in public health in Toronto instead of returning to the United States and Brown.
"This executive order today stops any hope that I can get out on another visa, in at least the next three months," Almilaji told the Journal in response to Trump’s updated order, which was issued Monday.
The healthcare industry has been particularly roiled by the immigration bans, and Almilaji is not the only U.S. doctor to get caught up in them. Suha Abushamma, M.D., a doctor at Cleveland Clinic, was also barred from reentering the U.S. after Trump’s first executive order, and she was allowed to return in early February. The first ban, which was broader in scope, was put on hold by the federal courts.
A number of healthcare organizations spoke out against the original ban, and many have expressed similar concerns about the updated version. Fears especially center around international medical students like Almilaji, who may not be able to return to finish their studies and work in the U.S. It’s also cast a shadow over the upcoming "Match Day" selections.
The updated order removed Iraq from its list of banned countries, but doctors from the six countries still included have treated millions of Americans, particularly those in poorer areas like the Rust Belt.