CHICAGO (CBS) — A smile of relief on his face, a Chicago area doctor is ready to resume his medical residency now that he’s back on U.S. soil, after he was delayed in Abu Dhabi amid President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Dr. Amer Al Homssi traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 18 to get married, but when he tried to fly back to Chicago on Sunday, he was told his visa had been canceled, due to Trump’s executive order imposing a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
On Tuesday, federal officials determined his visa was valid, and he was allowed to board a flight to O’Hare. He arrived around 9 a.m. Wednesday, greeted by his uncle, his co-workers, and his attorney, Thomas Durkin, who had filed a federal lawsuit challenging Trump’s executive order.
Although Al Homssi, 24, was born in Syria — one of the nations listed in the president’s order — he hasn’t been back there since he was 17.
Last June, he began his residency at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn through his internal medicine program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
A resident of the UAE, with a Syrian passport, he had traveled to Dubai last month for his wedding, but was turned away at the Abu Dhabi airport on Sunday when he tried to fly back to Chicago. U.S. authorities in the UAE canceled his visa, drawing a line through it, and writing the number of Trump’s executive order.
Initially, after being prevented from returning home, it was feared Al Homssi might be forced to go back to war-torn Syria if he couldn’t fly to the U.S., because he was not going to be allowed to stay in the UAE indefinitely.
Durkin filed a lawsuit challenging the travel ban as unconstitutional, and government attorneys reviewed Al Homssi’s case, determining his visa was valid.
“The fact that we were able to get this done with just a filing of a civil complaint, with the cooperation of the government lawyers, I think speaks volumes for the rule of law,” Durkin said.
Dozens of his colleagues from Advocate Christ showed up at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Wednesday to show their support before learning the , and that gesture wasn’t lost on Al Homssi as some of his co-workers welcomed him home Thursday morning.
“When I saw the pictures and the videos, and they actually each one of personally contacted me over social media – WhatsApp, Facebook, email – without their support, I wouldn’t have had hope; but when I saw them, I knew I would be able to come here now,” he said.
Al Homssi will head back to the hospital now, to review his cases, and get back to work possibly as early as Friday.