Syrian doctor studying in US stuck abroad due to travel ban
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Syrian doctor who has been studying in the U.S. how to rebuild his country’s health system said Monday he’s stuck overseas because of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Trump signed an executive order barring immigration for citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days, including Syria. Khaled Almilaji is now in Turkey while his pregnant wife is in the United States.
Almilaji said Syrians have suffered enough and the order takes away the opportunity for people, like himself, to complete their studies.
“We need doctors, we need teachers, we need everything,” he said. “So why are we not giving any chances for those people?”
The 35-year-old Almilaji received a scholarship to earn a master’s degree in public health at Brown University. He moved to Providence in August on a student visa with his wife. He said it’s a confusing time and he’s concerned about his wife.
The United States is enriched by many cultures and that would be a sad thing to lose, Almilaji said.
“It’s like a mosaic picture, which has every color, every race, every sect together, working for the country, and we used to know that the U.S. is this,” he said.
Almilaji coordinated a campaign that vaccinated 1.4 million Syrian children and provided medical care during Syria’s civil war. When Syria is stable enough, he wants to return and work on preventing diseases and other health problems, since resources for treating ailments will continue to be scarce.
Almilaji went to Turkey for a brief trip after the fall semester. He said he needed to check on the team of Canadian doctors he’s working with to establish safe health facilities in Syria and train medical workers, as well as to extend his residency permit in Turkey so he can return there after he completes his studies.
He said he’s optimistic he’ll return soon because the American people “always find a way to do the right thing.”