Trump's Travel Ban is Preventing a Yemeni Mother From Seeing Her Dying Child

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty

We don’t hear much about the travel ban these days, but for those who are impacted by Trump’s executive order, the restriction is painfully real. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on one family tragically impacted by the ban: the parents of Abdullah Hassan, a 2-year-old currently on life support at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Abdullah was born in Yemen with a rare brain disease that made movement and speech difficult. The disease has worsened since then, and he will soon be taken off life support. But first, Abdullah’s mother Shaima Swileh wants to see her son one last time.

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“All she wishes is to hold his hand for the last time,” Abdullah’s father, Ali Hassan, told the Chronicle. “If I could take him off the ventilator and to the airplane, I would take him to her. I would let her see him. But he won’t make it.”

Hassan’s family moved from Yemen to California in the ‘80s, but they still have strong connections to their home country. Hassan met his wife there, and she had five of their seven children there.

After Hassan and Swileh got a diagnosis for their child, they were able to get him U.S. citizenship and a passport so he could be treated in the U.S. At the same time, in August 2017, Swileh applied for a visa to go to the States. She did an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and then the waiting began.

From the Chronicle:

A month passed, and Hassan called to ask about the visa. He was told the application was still being processed. Another month passed, and then another. Hassan and Swileh were becoming increasingly concerned as Abdullah’s condition deteriorated.

Then they got a letter from the U.S. Embassy: Swileh’s request for a visa was being denied, “pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 9645”—the so-called Muslim ban.

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Hassan was forced to bring his son to America without his wife in order to access treatment.

“He was suffering more and more,” Hassan told the Chronicle. “I wanted to bring them both together, but since I couldn’t bring my wife—it’s hard for me to see my son suffering in Cairo. So I had to do what I had to do.”

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Swileh immediately requested a waiver for the ban, which are rarely granted. Immigration authorities will only say her request is processing.

Trump attempted to put a so-called Muslim ban in place multiple times before it stuck. Earlier versions of the order were struck down by federal courts before the newest version was upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this year. The ban prevents travel to the U.S. by people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen—all Muslim majority countries.

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Yemen is in the midst of a civil war fueled by U.S. weapons and aid to Saudi Arabia. The UN has called the war the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is now involved with Hassan and Swileh’s case. They held a press conference with Hassan today in Sacramento, and have filed a letter with the State Department and with the U.S. Embassy in Cairo asking for Swileh’s visa to be expedited.

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“The child, he is between God’s hands. God is the creator, and he’s the one who will let him go or let him stay,” Fawzi Hassan, Ali Hassan’s father, told the Chronicle. “But when I see my son suffering over this, it hurts even more. And what can we do about it? What crime did the child commit to be banned from his mom?”

Update, 12/20/2018, 12:00 p.m. ET: On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported, Abdullah’s mother Shaima Swileh arrived in California after being granted a waiver allowing her to enter the U.S. Under Trump’s Muslim-majority country travel ban, a provision allows exemptions for people on a case-by-case basis, and requires applicants to show that their entry to the U.S. is of national interest, necessary to prevent “undue hardship,” and wouldn’t be a security risk.

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“This is a difficult time for our family but we are blessed to be together,” Abdullah’s father Ali told reporters at the airport. “I ask you to respect our privacy as we go to be with our son again.”

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