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Yemeni parent wins travel ban waiver to see dying son in US

Yemen’s citizens are restricted from travelling to the US.


Ali Hassan with his two-year-old son Abdullah in a Sacramento hospital (Council on American-Islamic Relations/AP)
Ali Hassan with his two-year-old son Abdullah in a Sacramento hospital (Council on American-Islamic Relations/AP)

A Yemeni mother blocked by the Donald Trump administration’s travel ban has won her fight for a waiver that would allow her to travel to California to see her dying two-year-old son.

Basim Elkarra of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento said Shaima Swileh had been granted a visa and will be flying to San Francisco on Wednesday.

She has been living in Egypt but is from Yemen, whose citizens are restricted from travelling to the US under the Trump administration’s travel ban.

Mr Elkarra said the boy’s father, Ali Hassan, is a US citizen who brought their son to California in the autumn for treatment for a genetic brain condition. He is on life support at an Oakland hospital.

The visa came after the council filed a lawsuit.

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Ali Hassan with his two-year-old son Abdullah (Council on American-Islamic Relations/AP)

Ms Swileh and the boy had been living in Egypt and she had hoped to accompany them but was not given a visa to enter the United States.

As Ms Swileh and her husband fought for a waiver, their son’s health declined. Last week, doctors at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland put him on life support.

Mr Hassan was losing hope his wife would ever be allowed into the US and was considering pulling his son off life support to end his suffering, but then a social worker at the hospital reached out to the council, whose lawyers sued, Mr Elkarra said.

“Every avenue was going to be exhausted to get this young woman to see her son,” Mr Elkarra said.

He said Ms Swileh lost months with her child over what amounted to unnecessary delays and red tape.

The boy’s father was visiting his son at the hospital on Tuesday and was not immediately available for comment.

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“This is the happiest day of my life,” Mr Hassan said in a statement provided by the council. “This will allow us to mourn with dignity.”

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino called it “a very sad case,” adding: “Our thoughts go out to this family at this time, at this trying time.”

He said he could not comment on the family’s situation but that generally cases are handled individually and officials try to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States while protecting national security.

“These are not easy questions,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of foreign service officers deployed all over the world that are making these decisions on a daily basis, and they are trying very hard to do the right thing at all times.”

Press Association

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