Travel ban strands Syr­ian doc­tor with preg­nant wife in Prov­i­dence

Brown mas­ter’s can­di­date awaits fate in Turkey

Pawtucket Times - - REGION/OBITUARIES - By JEN­NIFER McDER­MOTT As­so­ci­ated Press

PROV­I­DENCE — 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 Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity 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."

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