BROOKLYN — A Brooklyn doctor is stuck in Sudan following President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, blocking refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, according to a colleague.
Dr. Kamal Fadlalla, a second-year resident at Interfaith Medical Center in central Brooklyn, was turned away at an airport in Khartoum, Sudan, this weekend as he tried to return to the United States, according to reports and the colleague.
Fadlalla, 33, had left the states on Jan. 13 to visit family in his home country, ProPublica reported. He had a newly issued H-1B visa for foreign workers in specialty occupations, he told the news outlet, and went to the airport Saturday.
After receiving a boarding pass and going through an immigration checkpoint, Fadlalla was at the gate when he heard his name called on a loudspeaker. He was told by an officer that he could not board the plane, according to reports.
“They took our boarding pass. They canceled our flight,” Fadlalla told ProPublica. “It was really shocking for me."
He was slated to stay in Sudan until early February, according to reports, but received calls from friends including Dr. Mazin Khalid, who told him about the possibility of the president’s travel ban.
“He went there for vacation to visit family and he was worried about the possibility in changes in visa processing,” Khalid, 31, a fellow resident at Interfaith who also came to work from Sudan, told DNAinfo New York.
Fadlalla, who lives in Crown Heights, worked with cancer patients in Sudan before coming to the United States, Khalid said, adding that he “is a very compassionate person.”
Doctors seek better education and opportunity in America, the third-year resident explained, and poor earnings in Sudan can drive them to seek employment in other nations.
“For us as doctors, it’s a huge advancement in our careers working in the United States, but in the same time coming to the U.S. in itself gives you a change of perspective," he said.
"You see the sense of fairness, the equality that everybody has an equal chance, that it doesn’t matter what race or religion you have, at the end of the day it’s your effort that counts,” Khalid said.
“The adjustment itself for somebody who’s coming from outside takes time, but we don’t look at it as, ‘This is not my country.’ The definition of country comes from the country that helps you, not just where you are born.”
Efforts to contact Fadlalla made by DNAinfo were unsuccessful.
Khalid joined fellow residents at Interfaith Medical Center on Monday to rally in support of Fadlalla’s return.
Members of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) union held signs at the hospital reading “Kamal Belongs in Brooklyn,” “Bring Kamal Back” and “IMMIGRANTS KEEP HOSPITALS RUNNING.”
Trump’s executive order bars travel from seven countries for 90 days, and if Fadlalla can’t return to the United States, he’ll fall behind in his residency and may not be able to graduate on time, he told ProPublica.
“I’m sad. I’m worried. I don’t know how to plan for my life,” he told the news outlet.
“Everything’s there. My bank accounts are there. My house is there. My friends. I have research there. I have my patients. I have my whole life there. I’ve been working for 20 months.”
Fadlalla’s union is working with Interfaith Medical Center to help him, a union spokeswoman said, and CIR is looking to launch a national petition against Trump’s ban.
"The President's Executive Orders on immigration will do damage to our healthcare system. Our members are on the front line of care in safety-net hospitals throughout the country; immigrants help make up the backbone of our hospital workforces,” Dr. Eve Kellner, CIR’s national president said in a statement.
“Preventing physicians from returning to their duties, encouraging discrimination based on religion and country of origin, will have untold consequences for our healthcare system and the communities relying on us."
A representative for Interfaith Medical Center and Fadlalla were not immediately available for comment.
While Khalid waits on news of his colleague, he also worries how the ban will affect his family.
On Monday, he held a sign reading, “I AM TAKING CARE OF YOUR MOM…BUT I CAN’T GO SEE MINE.”
“Even myself, I’m a green card holder but my graduation is in June and I don’t think my family is going to be able to come,” Khalid said.
“Just the sense of accomplishment your parents have when they see you graduate is priceless.”