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Ejected Cleveland Clinic doctor sues Trump administration over travel ban, as hospital continues getting heat for fundraiser at Trump site

The Cleveland Clinic
Ron Antonelli | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to explain why she should not allow a Cleveland Clinic doctor to return to the United States after being ejected by President Donald Trump's new travel ban.

Judge Carol Bagley Amon's order Wednesday came in response to a lawsuit by Dr. Suha Abushamma, who was booted back to Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Abushamma was sent back to Saudi Arabia because she holds a passport from Sudan, one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries targeted by Trump's 90-day travel ban.

Protesters gather at JFK International Airport against Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017 in New York.
Bryan R. Smith | AFP | Getty Images
Protesters gather at JFK International Airport against Donald Trump's executive order on January 28, 2017 in New York.

Abushamma's ejection allegedly came 15 minutes after another Brooklyn, New York, federal court judge had issued an order staying the ejection of people subject to that ban who already had landed in the U.S.

Her lawsuit says that she was detained for nine hours at JFK Airport, and not allowed to speak to her lawyer. It also claims that she was misled and coerced by Customs and Border Patrol agents into signing a form that purported to require her to return to Saudi Arabia, under threat of being barred from U.S. re-entry for five years.

Instead, the form actually could lead to her visa being canceled, according to the suit.

And the suit claims that Trump's executive order authorizing the travel ban "exhibits hostility to a specific religious faith, Islam, and gives preference to other religious faiths, principally Christianity."

Amon's order issued Wednesday calls for the Trump administration to answer at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court on Feb. 15 why she should not invalidate the form Abushamma signed, reinstate her visa, have her "immediately" returned to JFK Airport and enjoin the administration from detaining Abushamma after she comes back.

Abushamma's lawsuit challenging her ejection is being pressed as her employer, the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, continues taking heat for its planned fundraiser next month at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Hundreds of doctors, nurses and doctoral candidates earlier this week signed an open letter to the hospital's brass that said, "Far from publicly condemning" Trump's executive order and the ejection of Abushamma, who has a visa, "the Cleveland Clinic silently continues to promote ties with the Trump administration."

The letter noted the fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, whose tickets cost between $1,250 and $100,000 apiece, saying the hospital's willingness to go through with that event is "unconscionable." And Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove has acted as an advisor to Trump, and was scheduled to meet with the president and other executives on Friday.

The Cleveland Clinic told CNBC earlier this week that the fundraiser, which was scheduled well before the controversy over Trump's travel ban, would go ahead as scheduled next month at Mar-a-Lago where it has held the event since 2011. But the Cleveland Clinic also said that it was not committing to holding the fundraiser there next year, noting, "We're getting a lot of feedback from our communities and want to be very considerate of that."

On Wednesday, hospital spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said she could not comment on Abushamma's lawsuit.

"I can tell you that our fundraiser in Florida is solely about raising important dollars that support research in cardiovascular medicine, critical to advancing patient care," Sheil said.