January 31, 2017

For Immediate Release

Washington D.C. – The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is deeply concerned that the Executive Order signed last week might compromise the ability to provide critical humanitarian and medical relief overseas, and could limit the education and professional careers of many aspiring Syrian students and physicians.

The Executive Order may negatively impact the provision of health care in the U.S. There are currently more than 5,000 Syrian-American physicians working across the U.S., including about 1,000 SAMS members. Many hold academic ranking, are researchers, or serve large communities or underserved areas. Every year, more than 100 Syrian physicians start their professional training in the U.S. and many more pass the United States Medical Boards with competitive scores. Denying these aspiring and talented medical workers’ entry into this country is therefore detrimental to the thousands of Americans who would receive their care.

SAMS is committed to providing quality medical care for those in need inside Syria, neighboring countries, and beyond to alleviate suffering and save lives. SAMS continues to provide training and workshops, both in-person and online, that have trained more than 770 physicians, nurses, and technicians. SAMS is proud to support students and medical personnel as they pursue education and build a bright future for themselves.

Additionally, SAMS is working tirelessly to ensure a healthier future for Syrians, both inside Syria and those displaced in the region and Europe. In 2016, SAMS physicians treated more than 500,000 refugees through its medical missions to the region and Europe. These medical missions reflect the best of America’s values: humanity, compassion, and sacrifice.

The changes included in the Executive Order will affect the ability of SAMS physicians to deliver this critical care. American physicians with dual nationality and valid visas may be separated from their families in the U.S. if they, or their families, are denied readmission. Dr. Muhamad Moustafa is a Syrian resident at the Washington Hospital Center. On Saturday, a day after the President signed the Executive Order, his wife, Nabila Alhaffar, was detained at the airport in Doha, Qatar for hours and was not allowed to board the plane to Virginia where she resides with her husband. She is still stranded in Qatar.

“She was treated badly at the airport. They took her phone and passport and denied her a lawyer or translator. They canceled her valid visa. Took all her papers including our marriage contract and they never gave it back to her, said Dr. Muhamad Moustafa. “She was yelled at and they made her sign papers that she did know anything about. Then they forced her to go back to Qatar. She was very emotionally traumatized.”

Additionally, many volunteers who have valid work visas and green cards may opt-out of carrying out medical missions overseas; therefore, preventing the world’s most vulnerable from receiving quality healthcare.

Syrian-American physicians have long made a meaningful and positive contribution to their communities here in the U.S., while also sacrificing their time and talents to help those in need overseas. The U.S. government must do everything in its power to stand with these courageous individuals, not discriminate against them,” said SAMS President, Dr. Ahmad Tarakji. “We call on the President to reverse his Executive Order on immigration.”

SAMS has been actively speaking with government officials, meeting this week with officials at the State Department, White House, and Capitol Hill to address the urgency and the impact of this Executive Order on Syrian-American physicians. We continue to call on the U.S. government in the hope to make changes to this Executive Order to protect physicians and medical students and to allow SAMS physicians to continue to provide quality healthcare in the U.S. and abroad.  SAMS encourages its members to provide feedback and join the organization’s efforts in reaching out to their local legislators.

SAMS is committed now more than ever to supporting the world’s most vulnerable in the U.S. and abroad by providing dignified medical care through its medical missions.