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World Donald Trump’s immigration order leaves newlyweds’ plan in limbo

Syrian couple Marah Alsaidy and Waseem Obeid, seen in Lebanon last September, hoped to be reunited on U.S. soil later this month.

Courtesy of Waseem Obeid

Like many newly married couples, Marah Alsaidy and Waseem Obeid had a plan for their life together.

She would complete pharmacy school this fall in Syria while he continued his medical residency in Michigan. In the meantime, they would arrange for her to become a U.S. permanent resident, look for an apartment together outside Detroit and maybe even make a trip to the Universal Studios theme park in California.

Now, as Dr. Obeid works long nights in the intensive cardiac care unit of his hospital, he is consumed with a more basic question: Should his wife try to make it into the United States while the door is open?

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As a federal appeals court in San Francisco began to hear arguments on the future of U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration and refugee ban, families across the United States and the Middle East are making similar calculations, discussing each new development in a flurry of calls and WhatsApp messages.

Mr. Trump's executive order, which was suspended on Friday, has wreaked havoc on the lives of at least 60,000 visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria. The ban has separated parents and children and prevented people from travelling to the United States for previously arranged medical treatment.

For Dr. Obeid, a 27-year old American citizen, it has been a time of dejection and shock, a period that has undermined his faith in the United States as a country of fairness and opportunity.

Born in the United States and raised in Syria, he lives in West Bloomfield, Mich., and is finishing his residency in internal medicine at a nearby hospital. The hours after Mr. Trump signed his executive order on Jan. 27 were "the least welcome I've ever felt in this country," he said.

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After waiting nearly a year, Ms. Alsaidy went for an interview at the U.S. embassy in Jordan on Jan. 18, two days before Mr. Trump's inauguration. With Ms. Alsaidy's visa in hand, the couple believed they were in the clear, despite the swirling rumours of a possible immigration clampdown. They bought tickets for her to fly to the United States via Germany on Feb. 25.

During that visit, Ms. Alsaidy, 23, planned to complete the process of becoming a permanent resident, or green card holder. Then, after one more semester of pharmacy school in Syria, the couple would finally begin their life together in the United States. Now, each step in that process feels fraught with uncertainty.

On the weekend after Mr. Trump signed the order, Dr. Obeid joined a large demonstration against the immigration ban at Detroit's airport, an experience he described as "awesome."

Dr. Obeid's relatives and in-laws are pushing him to act quickly to get Ms. Alsaidy to the United States, arguing that the legal battle over the refugee ban is too uncertain to delay any longer. But Dr. Obeid worries that if her timing is bad, Ms. Alsaidy could find herself in the same situation as some recent travellers whose visas were physically cancelled upon arriving in the United States. Now, those people must reapply, starting the visa approval process all over again.

Each time a new lawsuit challenges the ban or a major U.S. company speaks out against it, Dr. Obeid experiences a surge of hope that the United States "will remain the country of immigrants and possibilities and chances." Especially heartening to him were the statements by the American College of Physicians and the New England Journal of Medicine opposing the executive order.

The breadth of opposition to the ban, from Americans of many different religions and ethnicities, has stuck with Dr. Obeid. "We as a Muslim community sometimes didn't pay attention to other people's problems," he said. "I have vowed to myself that I'll be involved with everyone who gets oppressed, to stand with them, like they stood with us."

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In the meantime, Dr. Obeid is trying to remain optimistic. Ms. Alsaidy still has a reservation for a flight later this month and he is hoping to be able to welcome her at the airport.

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