President Donald Trump’s “ill-planned and discriminatory Executive Order” has barred a Chicago-area doctor from returning to the United States after he traveled to the United Arab Emirates to get married, a lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday alleges.
The suit refers to the plaintiff as "collateral damage" of Trump's recent travel order, naming Trump, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its Secretary John Kelly as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its acting Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan as defendants.
Dr. Amer Al Homssi, 24, a resident in internal medicine at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn on a J-1 visa, holds citizenship in both Syria and the United Arab Emirates, the suit says, and he was married on Jan. 23 in the UAE. He attempted to return to his residency from Abu Dhabi International Airport to O’Hare International Airport on Sunday, his attorneys say, but was stopped by U.S. security.
Trump’s executive order, signed Friday, temporarily bars travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries as well as refugees across the globe—including Syria. Lawyers for Homssi say it is “unmistakably clear” that Trump’s executive order targets Muslims.
Trump in a statement Sunday said the order was “not about religion” but keeping the country safe from terrorists. The president said the seven countries on the travel ban list were previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.
“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said.
Kelly echoed Trump’s stance on the executive order Tuesday at a news conference.
"This is not, I repeat, not a ban on Muslims," he said.
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The attorneys cite the president’s statements on banning Muslims while on the campaign trail in addition to the selection of Muslim-majority countries for the list in the suit. They also say the language of the executive order implies that, after 120 days, Christian refugees from Muslim-majority countries will be prioritized over Muslims when claiming refugee status.
“Dr. Al Homssi now finds himself unable to return to his residency program at [the University of Illinois at Chicago], and if he cannot complete this program he faces the risk of being excluded from the UAE and forced to return to war-torn Syria—where he has not been since he was 17 years old on vacation, and where he has never lived,” the suit reads.
Homssi’s passport was seized by a U.S. security officer during pre-clearance, the suit alleges, before he was ordered to undergo a second screening. Homssi voluntarily answered questions and gave his cellphones and personal belongings up for inspection, the suit says.
On one of Homssi’s phones was a Muslim prayer app called “Islamona,” according to the suit, and at no time was he asked about terrorism or “any other conceivable question related to his being someone who should be denied entry to the U.S. because he is suspected of being a terrorist.”
After being questioned and having his belongings searched, a security officer returned Homssi’s J-1 and B1/B2 visas with “Cancelled E.O.” written across them in “fat black marker” and blue pen, court records show.
“The U.S. Officers then informed Dr. Al Homssi that he could not board his flight because he was not able to return to the United States based upon President Trump’s Executive Order,” the suit reads.
The officers allegedly told Homssi that it might be 90 days or longer before he could expect to board a flight to the U.S.
“All of these dreadful consequences, the foregoing Complaint will show, 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 suit reads.
The suit also says Homssi’s treatment and the executive order violate a number of other constitutional and statutory provisions.
The suit seeks to order the defendants to rescind the cancellation of Homssi’s visas, to allow him to return to his medical residency as well as award him reasonable costs and attorney’s fees.
The attorneys also seek an injunction "enjoining the enforcement" of the executive order.