Lawsuit: UNM professor locked out of the country, unable to get visa

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A University of New Mexico professor is locked out of the United States after he tried to apply for a work visa to come back to work. After two months, his visa is still not approved.

Now, UNM is suing the federal government, claiming many patients are at risk if he doesn’t come back to work soon. “Dr. Yahya is of Palestinian descent, from the Middle East. He’s an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UNM,” says Olsi Vrapi.

Dr. Hammam Yahya started working for UNM last year and is also a physician. Back in June, he went home to Palestine on paternity leave. Right when he left, he applied for a visa to be able to come back to UNM to work. “He was placed in what is called, Administrative Processing, back in June. To this day, he’s still stuck over there without visa issuance,” says Vrapi.

Vrapi, UNM’s attorney, says the U.S. State Department has not given Yahya a reason as to why they will not approve his visa. Vrapi says the visa process typically takes three days, but it’s been two months since Yahya applied for the visa. “The concern here is that it’s been [over two] months and Dr. Yahya was due at UNM on August 6,” he says.

Now, UNM is suing the State Department, U.S. Attorney General, and the FBI for the delay. “Providing whatever information or documentation that the consulate was asking for at the beginning of this visa application. This was a last resort,” Vrapi says.

Vrapi says not having Dr. Yahya back at UNM is hurting the medical residents who rely on him to be their professor. Its’ also caused a negative effect on the community. “Losing one physician, creates a ripple effect issues. Now, other psychiatrists will have to cover his patient load,” says Vrapi.

Representatives for the FBI, State Department, and the U.S. Attorney General all declined to comment on the story. At this time, UNM’s Psychiatry Department Chair has had to put his administrative duties aside to tend to Dr. Yahya’s patients.

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