HARRISBURG – A doctor enrolled as an internal medicine resident at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville is seeking a federal judge to waive a two-year foreign residency requirement of his exchange visitor program, and prevent his forced return to his native Egypt.

On March 16, Dr. Ahmed Alabbady, his wife Dina Hassen and their infant son (listed in the litigation as “A.A.”) filed a lawsuit versus a number of federal defendants, including Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Defendants also listed are Marcia Pryce, Chief of the U.S. State Department’s Waiver Review Division; Kathy A. Baran, Director of the California Service Center of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; and Lori A. Scialabba, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Alabbady came to the United States in 2012 for medical school and married Hassen, of Rhode Island, in 2013. The couple’s son was born in January 2016. Alabbady believes his life would be at risk and his family would suffer “exceptional psychological and financial hardship," if he were forced to return to Egypt.

“Egypt is one of the most violent, dangerous and unstable countries in the world. It has been plagued by political, economic, religious and ethnic violence since January 2011. The overall environment is unstable given the presence of active Islamist insurgency in northern Sinai and the growth of terrorist presence across Egypt’s border with Libya,” Alabbady stated in the lawsuit.

The suit further claims Hassen’s mother has been diagnosed with dementia and Alabbady, who assists in her care, would not be able to continue treating her if forced to leave the country. Hassen would also experience professional disruption in such a circumstance, according to the lawsuit.

The exchange visitor program in which Alabbady is participating does not allow its entrants to apply for permanent resident status in the United States until the foreign residency requirement is completed or waived.

According to the litigation, Alabbady, whose residency here in the U.S. would expire on June 30, began the waiver application process about one year ago.

“On Oct. 20, 2016, Dr. Alabbady’s waiver application was reviewed by the Director of the California Service Center, Kathy A. Baran. Ms. Baran made the legal determination that Dr. Alabbady’s qualifying relatives would suffer exceptional hardships if a waiver was not granted. Thus, the USCIS supported the approval of a waiver for Dr. Alabbady,” the suit states.

However, the suit goes on to say that four months later, Secretary Tillerson and Pryce, Chief of the State Department’s Waiver Review Division, issued a “Not Favorable” recommendation on Feb. 24, and sent that determination back to Baran.

The litigation alleges the State Department did not elaborate on its negative recommendation to Alabbady and his family. Such a recommendation does not allow for an appeal process and leads to an automatic denial of a waiver application.

Alabbady believes this “Not Favorable” recommendation was made by the defendants without considering the evidence, and that they collectively violated the Administrative Procedure Act and all of the plaintiffs’ due process rights through an abuse of discretion.

The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the defendants’ handling of the waiver application is in violation of statute and the Constitution; a declaration that Alabbady’s waiver application is meritorious and should be approved; an order for the defendants to approve the waiver; attorneys’ fees and costs, and other relief.

The plaintiffs are represented by Brian C. Schmitt of Hake & Schmitt in New Windsor, Md., and Craig R. Shagin of The Shagin Law Group, in Harrisburg.

The defendants have not yet secured legal counsel, according to court records.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania case 4:17-cv-00464

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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