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GE working to get Schenectady employee home

GE working to get Schenectady employee home

A General Electric design engineer and native of Syria is stuck in Qatar by President Trump's travel ban
GE working to get Schenectady employee home
Sirin Hamsho.
Photographer: From her Facebook profile

A General Electric design engineer and native of Syria is stuck in Qatar after President Trump instituted the ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, according to the company and people who know her.

Sirin Hamsho was traveling in the Middle Eastern country for both business and personal reasons when Trump's ban went into effect.

Hamsho is a French citizen who has lived in the United States for the past five years, she wrote on her Facebook page. She is a wind turbine electrical design engineer for GE Renewable Energy at its downtown Schenectady plant. For her work, she received an international patent in the wind energy, she wrote.

Asked about Hamsho on Friday, General Electric indicated it "is assisting the employee and hope everything is resolved as soon as possible."

Trump instituted the ban by executive order, arguing it keeps America safe from terrorism as the country works on more restrictive checks of refugees and visitors, according to The Washington Post. Critics have called it a ban on Muslims.

Details of Hamsho's attempts to return to the United States were unclear Friday. Qatar is not among the seven countries; however, Hamsho's native country of Syria is.

A friend, Rabbi Glenn Jacob of Long Island, said he has communicated with her via email and indicated she wasn't allowed to get on a plane in Qatar. Communication has been difficult and only by email, he said.

Hamsho lives in Niskayuna with her husband and two daughters, age 4 years and 7 months. She was traveling with her children, while her husband stayed in Niskayuna, according to Jacob, who serves with Hamsho on the board of the group New York Interfaith Power & Light. Jacob is the group's executive director.

Jacob said Hamsho works at General Electric via a work visa.

"The only sense I can get is that it's really tough" on her, Jacob said of his email exchanges with Hamsho. "It's definitely tough. It's scary is the other sense I get."

Jacob has known Hamsho for about two years through the organization.

Beyond her work at GE, she has been active in resettling Syrian families, as well as pursuing alternative energy and getting girls to pursue science.

"One of her biggest passions is promoting female engineers and getting young women to go into engineering," Jacob said.

Hamsho posted to Facebook about her situation on Tuesday, but hadn't posted a follow-up as of Friday evening -- other than to respond to a comment hours later.

"On 11th January this year, I was nominated for Fast and Fearless Innovator award for my contribution in the Renewable Energy," she wrote. "On 27th January, Donald Trump seems to have nominated me to be a 'potential threat' to his national security.

"Not really sure how I will communicate this to my four years old daughter who's already missing her dad, school and friends back home! "Not really sure how I will be stranded away with her and her seven months old baby sister!"

Hamsho's post has been shared nearly 300 times since. She did not describe an attempt to return to the United States.
GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt wrote a letter to employees earlier this week indicating the company is evaluating how the executive order will impact employees.

He wrote that the company has many employees from the named countries and GE does business around that part of the world.

"These employees and customers are critical to our success and they are our friends and partners," Immelt wrote. "We stand with them and will work with the U.S. Administration to strive to find the balance between the need for security and the movement of law abiding people.  We will continue to make our voice heard with the new administration and Congress and reiterate the importance of this issue to GE and to the business community overall."

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