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Chicago Doctor Stranded Overseas After Trump's Travel Ban Allowed To Return

By Josh McGhee | February 1, 2017 1:31pm | Updated on February 1, 2017 7:27pm
 A 24-year-old doctor stuck overseas due to President Donald Trump's travel ban should be home Thursday morning, lawyers representing Dr. Amer Al Homssi said.
A 24-year-old doctor stuck overseas due to President Donald Trump's travel ban should be home Thursday morning, lawyers representing Dr. Amer Al Homssi said.
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CHICAGO — A 24-year-old doctor stuck overseas due to President Donald Trump's travel ban should be home Thursday morning, lawyers representing Dr. Amer Al Homssi said.

In a court room packed with a dozen medical professionals Wednesday afternoon, Thomas Anthony Durkin and U.S. Attorney Craig Oswald agreed on a settlement allowing Al Homssi to return to Chicago and to work on Thursday.

Some of the paperwork will still need to be amended because the documents are from the State Department, which isn't named in the lawsuit. Al Homssi will be subject to inspection, but will be considered "exempt" from the executive order, said Oswald.

Durkin, a criminal defense attorney and a Graduate Student at Large studying the intersection of religion and nationalism at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues at Durkin and Roberts received a call about the case Monday night and worked overnight to file the lawsuit Tuesday. By about 8 a.m. Wednesday, he was discussing a settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office, he said.

The lawsuit, which calls Al Homssi "collateral damage" of the executive order, names President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of DHS John Kelly, U.S. Customs and Borders Protection, and acting Commissioner of CBP Kevin McCaleenan as defendants.

Al Homssi, a resident of internal medicine at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, was stopped at an Abu Dhabi airport Sunday on his way back to Chicago after traveling to United Arab Emirates to get married on Jan. 23, according to the complaint.

The Syrian citizen and legal resident of UAE was questioned by officers and voluntarily gave up his cell phone and other belongings to be inspected. After questioning, an officer returned his travel visas marked in black pen "Cancelled E.O.," according to the complaint.

Officers told Al Homssi based on the executive order he would not be able to return to the U.S. and it might be 90 days or longer before he could board a flight to the U.S.

While Al Homssi is now expected to return Thursday, questions still remain about why the visa was initially canceled. According to ABC Chicago, the canceled visa cites "E.O. 59447v8," which does not match Trump's executive order. However, the identifier does match an order signed by George W. Bush after 9/11 and reaffirmed several times, ABC reports.

Along with a Business Visitor Visa, Al Homssi was carrying a J-1 Visa, which "offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities" in the U.S. through programs monitored by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, said Durkin, adding lawyers for the U.S. Attorney's Office, lawyers for Custom and Border Patrol and himself "don't anticipate a problem."

"He’s somebody that these programs were designed for. This is what this kind of visa is for. It's for people to come and learn here... They could either stay here because we needed them, which is one of the goals of immigration, or they would get better educated and trained and be able to go back to their home country or somewhere else," Durkin said.

"He’s a resident in internal medicine. He has patients. And he had horribly serious consequences on the other end if he could not complete his residency," he said.

Not allowing him to finish his residency and send him to Syria "where he's never really lived" only visited "would have been a real humanitarian disaster," Durkin said.

"All of these dreadful consequences... are the result of his being a member of the Muslim faith that is now being treated differently in the United States in stark violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause," the complaint said.

The quick settlement was "a very, very good illustration" of protecting "the rule of law," said Durkin, adding there wouldn't be any additional lawsuits pertaining to this case such as a class action lawsuit against the executive order.

"The government lawyers deserve an enormous amount of credit," Durkin said. "Everybody could have dug in their heels and tried to prove a point, [but] that would not have helped my doctor's patients" or the medical professionals who supported him."

Al Homssi began his residency in June and was in his first year of the three year program. He was one of Dr. Anadil Faqah's interns, she said.

"He was like all of us. A very homely person... who should be granted all his rights," she said.

Faqah was one of more than a dozen medical colleagues who ventured to the court room to show support.

"He was very excited to go home and I'm so sad things didn't go as planned," she said adding, "I'm glad the results were in his favor."

"I really hope I can work with him soon," said Faqah.

Abraham Antar, 55, was following the story and decided "to show support" by heading to the court room.

"We need to show support for what's taking place and show how this impacts the life of normal everyday individuals. He's a doctor that needs to be in school and they put a hold on his life," Antar said.

While the travel ban makes Antar uneasy because it seems to target people of the religion he practices, Al Homssi's expected return restored a little bit of his faith.

"It makes me feel like truth prevails. Logic versus chaotic prevailed. This is what America is all about," he said.

Attorneys involved in the case will return to the courtroom at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 9. Al Homssi is expected to arrive at O'Hare around 9 a.m. Thursday on a flight from Etihad Airways.