New York Times
By Alan Feuer
February 3, 2017
Just minutes after a federal judge blocked part of President Trump’s immigration order on Saturday night, ruling that no one with a valid visa should be deported, someone was, according to court papers filed on Thursday.
Her name is Suha Amin Abdullah Abushamma, a Sudanese doctor with a valid H-1B foreign-worker visa who was working at the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio, in a residency program.
“She left for vacation thinking she’d be gone for a short time, and then she couldn’t come back to her home,” Dr. Abushamma’s lawyer, Jennifer Kroman, said on Thursday evening. “It raises not only constitutional questions, but questions about the importance of court orders.”
Mr. Trump said his immigration order, restricting entry to the United States by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Sudan, was intended to make the country safe from Islamic terrorists. But according to lawyers for immigrants who were barred, the order caught in its web dozens of people like Dr. Abushamma, who graduated at the top of her class from medical school.
Dr. Abushamma’s case was highlighted at a hearing in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday, where Judge Carol B. Amon extended until Feb. 21 the initial ruling — formally known as a stay of removal — issued last week by her colleague, Judge Ann M. Donnelly.
Judge Amon will be presiding over the case and deciding on the legal issues underlying the executive order, while at the same time overseeing nine cases in which plaintiffs say they were improperly deported.
The Thursday hearing before Judge Amon was largely procedural and was held to set out the schedule for arguments and motions in coming weeks. But in a separate action the day before, Judge Amon ordered the government to explain in writing by mid-February why she should not allow Dr. Abushamma to return to the United States, where the doctor is engaged to be married to a fellow physician.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs described Dr. Abushamma’s detention and deportation during Thursday’s hearing.
Four days before Mr. Trump signed the executive order, Dr. Abushamma had flown to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to spend time with her family. Her apartment, her car and all of her belongings — save the few that she had packed for her vacation — were still in Cleveland. But when she landed at Kennedy Airport on Jan. 28, she was detained by customs agents and not allowed to continue on to Cleveland, according to the papers filed on Thursday.
Dr. Abushamma, the papers said, was held for more than six hours at the airport, as arguments were being held in Judge Donnelly’s courtroom. And although her immigration lawyer tried to explain to customs agents that the judge was about to rule, the lawyer was ignored, the papers said. She was escorted onto a plane headed back to Saudi Arabia by two customs officials.
“One stood in front of her and the other stood behind her,” according to the papers. “Dr. Abushamma felt like they were trying to make sure that she did not escape, as though she was a criminal in custody.”
In court, lawyers for the immigrants said it remained unclear if people were removed from the country in violation of Judge Donnelly’s ruling, as Dr. Abushamma contends she was, and how many of them there might be. Though lawyers say they have repeatedly asked the government for a detailed list of those who were both detained and deported since the ruling went into effect, federal officials have not yet provided one. The government has said that no immigrants are currently in custody, but lawyers say that could be because some of them have already been improperly sent back to their homelands.
“It is unlikely we have found the entire universe of people who have been removed,” said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued for the immigrants at the hearing. Mr. Gelernt said that he would give the government another chance to furnish him with a list of detainees and those who were deported, but he added that if federal officials did not provide the list within “a short time” — perhaps as early as Friday — he would consider filing a contempt of court complaint against the administration.
The case may emerge as the first of its kind to decide whether the Trump administration disobeyed Judge Donnelly’s ruling to keep legal visa holders in the country.
Samuel Go, a lawyer for the Justice Department, said at the hearing that the government planned to file a motion to dismiss the entire case challenging Mr. Trump’s executive order, which, so far, has not been subject to a ruling on broad constitutional grounds.
While Mr. Gelernt and his colleagues have opposed the order, saying that it violates due process rights and discriminates against Muslims in contravention of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, they have not yet had the opportunity to make those arguments in court.
Given that most of the travelers detained by the government have already been released, possibly rendering their legal efforts moot, Dr. Abushamma’s claims may provide the plaintiffs with an opportunity to attack the basic legal foundations of the executive order.
“When she left to visit her family, she had no idea that she would become ensnared in the chaos following President Trump’s issuance of an unconstitutional and unlawful Executive Order,” her papers say. “Nor did Dr. Abushamma ever imagine then that, as a valid visa-holder living and working legally in the United States, she would be barred from reentry to the United States and unlawfully removed to Saudi Arabia.”
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