Yemeni mother of dying 2-year-old arrives in the US after waiting a year to be granted a visa

CAIR Sacramento ValleyAli Hassan with his 2-year-old son Abdullah.
  • Two-year-old Abdullah Hassan is currently on life support at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. He has a congenital brain condition that has left him unable to breathe on his own.
  • After waiting over a year for a visa, Abdullah’s mother Shaima Swileh, a Yemeni national, was granted a waiver to the Trump administration’s travel ban, which initially barred her from travelling to the US.
  • Swileh arrived in the US on Wednesday evening, according to the Agence France Presse.

Two-year-old Abdullah Hassan is currently on life support at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. After waiting over a year, his mother Shaima Swileh, a Yemeni national, arrived in the United States on Wednesday to say goodbye.

Swileh had been unable to secure a visa, due to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the family told the San Francisco Chronicle. Earlier this week, she was granted a waiver. Both the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Rep. Barbara Lee sent letters asking the State Department to grant her a waiver.

A video posted Wednesday night by the Agence France Presse shows Swileh arriving at San Francisco International Airport. Dozens were waiting at the airport for her arrival, according to San Francisco Chronicle reporter Lauren Hernández.

Abdullah, who has a congenital brain condition, was brought to the United States for treatment by his father Ali Hassan roughly five months ago; both Abdullah and Ali are US citizens. Ali Hassan, who is 22, was born in Yemen, but moved to Stockton, California (where his grandfather moved in the 1980s) when he was in middle school.

“My son Abdullah needs his mother,” Hassan said at a press conference held by CAIR on Monday. “My wife’s calling me every day, wanting to kiss and hold our son for one last time.”

In June 2018, the US Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of Trump’s executive order barring entry to the US for those from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, and North Korea.

Abdullah has a form of hypomyelination, which according to the National Institute of Health is a genetic disorder that involves “abnormalities of the brain’s white matter.” It impacts myelin the fatty coating that “insulates nerve fibres and promotes the rapid transmission of nerve impulses.” In Abdullah’s case the disease has impacted his ability to speak and walk, and now, his ability to breathe. His parents were unaware that the disease would be fatal before he left to come to the US.

Yemen is currently facing a devastating civil war and humanitarian crisis. Swileh and Abdullah left Yemen for Egypt due to the turmoil and to get Abdullah better medical care.

Hassan, who was living in Stockton, met them in Cairo. The plan was for all three family members to travel to the states together. In August 2017 Swileh applied for a visa, but it was denied due to the travel ban.

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