Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Syrian Student, Embraced by Canada, Opts for U.S. after Trump Order Halted

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Syrian Student, Embraced by Canada, Opts for U.S. after Trump Order Halted

Article excerpt

Syrian embraced by Canada opts for U.S.

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OTTAWA - Canada became a brief beacon of hope for Alaa Alsabeh of Syria after his plan to study engineering in Michigan was shattered by Donald Trump's executive order banning nationals from seven countries, including his.

Until it wasn't.

For one, long, chaotic week, Canada appeared as possible oasis, an attractive Plan B, for the 23-year-old Syrian student as it appeared he had no hope of taking Wayne State University up on its offer to have him pursue graduate-level studies there.

Questions persist about the future of travel to the U.S. for people from the seven predominantly Muslim countries; on Thursday, a federal appeals court refused to reinstate the ban, setting the stage for a trip to the Supreme Court.

Amid the uncertainty, Canadian universities have been touting the potential of a so-called "brain gain" of foreign students for Canada. But the story of this one Syrian, determined to follow his dream in the U.S., casts a new light on those potentially lucrative recruiting aspirations.

After Trump's Jan. 27 executive order, Alsabeh received an email from the U.S. Embassy cancelling his appointment for a visa. A week later, after a U.S. federal judge ordered a halt to Trump's order, he received a fresh State Department invitation to reapply.

In that intervening week, Canada showed him the love. A Canadian consultant tried to connect him with various universities after originally reading about him in the Washington Post. A McMaster University dean reached out to him after the two connected on Twitter.

Still, Alsabeh opted for Plan A -- applying to go to the U.S. But he'll never forget Canada.

"Now that I can apply once again, I'll take my chances," he told The Canadian Press from Cyprus. "I'll never forget who was there for me when no one was: Canadian people."

The highs and low that Alsabeh experienced mirrored the confusion unleashed at U.S. airports and across Canada and the world after Trump banned entry for 90 days to citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Alsabeh, the eldest of three children, weathered the Syrian civil war by getting his undergraduate degree in Syria before leaving his family behind and going to Cyprus. …

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