New York (AFP) - For Sudanese doctor Kamal Fadlalla, 33, the nightmare ended on Sunday -- he was reunited with ecstatic friends and colleagues a week after being barred from returning to his patients in New York.
The Brooklyn medical resident had been at home on holiday in Sudan when he heard that President Donald Trump was planning to ban visa holders from his homeland and six other predominantly Muslim countries from re-entering the country.
He frantically re-booked his flight to return earlier, but was not quick enough. Last weekend he had been in a queue to board a plane, but was pulled out and told he would not be allowed to fly.
He stayed in Sudan while friends, supporters and lawyers in New York worked out how to get him in as quickly as possible. After a federal judge in Seattle suspended the ban on Friday, he took a flight on Saturday.
"He's here!" said friend and fellow doctor Osama Mukhtar, whose young son ran ahead to greet Fadlalla with a hug in the arrivals hall of Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"It feels great," said Fadlalla, dressed in a teal jersey and checked shirt, looking remarkably relaxed after an overnight flight from Dubai.
"It was a tough week actually, but finally," he said of making it home.
Excited shrieks and whoops erupted from a group of doctors and well-wishers, who turned out in white doctors' coats to greet him.
"Welcome home," shouted one of them. There were sighs as Fadlalla scooped Mukhtar's son into his arms.
Fadlalla, who is from the Sudanese city of Madani, said the first thing he wanted to do was call his mom and sister to reassure them that everything was fine.
"It was really horrible, it was shocking," he said, when asked what he thought about the ban that had blocked visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days.
- 'Great country' -
"Justice is justice, the law is the law, it's a great country," he said, looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible and seeing his patients again. "I'll be happy to see all of them."
New York's public advocate Letitia James, a Democrat, was one of those who came out to greet him.
"I believe in freedom and I believe in individual liberties and I believe this doctor, who has done much for central Brooklyn, needs to be celebrated and he needs to know that America is a safe harbor," she told reporters.
James called the travel ban "unconstitutional, illegal and immoral" and said Trump had "overreached and overstepped his power."
"He needs to understand and read the constitution," she said.
Khurram Mehtabdin, 30, from Long Island, was one of those who came out to greet Fadlalla despite never having previously met the Interfaith Medical Center resident, so horrified was he by the ban.
"He is the kind of person that makes this country great," Mehtabdin told AFP. His own parents are doctors who came to America 40 years ago as part of the same competitive, government-sponsored residency program, he said.
"We were all devastated. This is not just for the doctors, but it's for the cab drivers, it's for the bodega owners, it's for the common person whose life is now completely shattered because of this ridiculous travel ban."
Mehtabdin said there was a "huge shortage" of physicians in the United States, which high-achieving, foreign-born doctors help to fill, often working in under-served areas who can then be fast-tracked for green cards.
"I'm definitely happy," said Mukhtar, Fadlalla's friend and colleague from Sudan who is doing the same internal medicine residency.
On Sunday morning before Fadlalla arrived, Mukhtar's sons, aged three and six, crouched on the floor of the terminal to pen welcome home signs.
"Miss You Kamal," the eldest one wrote.