This recent but undated photo, released Monday, Dec. 17, 2018 by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento, Calif., shows Ali Hassan with his dying 2-year-old son Abdullah in a Sacramento hospital. The boy's Yemeni mother, blocked by the Trump administration's travel ban, has won her fight for a waiver that would allow her to travel to California to see her son. Basim Elkarra of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento said Shaima Swileh was granted a visa Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, and will be flying to San Francisco on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (Council on American-Islamic Relations via AP)

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

December 18, 2018 - 5:01 pm

A Yemeni mother on Tuesday won her fight for a waiver from the Trump administration's travel ban that would allow her to go to California to see her dying 2-year-old son.

Shaima Swileh planned to fly to San Francisco on Wednesday after the U.S. State Department granted her a visa, said Basim Elkarra of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento, whose lawyers sued this week.

The boy's father, Ali Hassan, is a U.S. citizen who brought their son, Abdullah, to California in the fall to get treatment for a genetic brain condition after the boy's health worsened.

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. Citizens from Yemen and six other mostly Muslim countries are restricted from traveling to the United States under the travel ban enacted under President Donald Trump.

As 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.

Hassan was losing hope his wife would ever be allowed in the U.S. 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 on American-Islamic Relations, whose lawyers sued Monday, Elkarra said.

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

He said 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 Tuesday and was not immediately available for comment.

"This is the happiest day of my life," 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, and our thoughts go out to this family at this time, at this trying time."

He said he couldn't comment on the family's situation but that generally cases are handled individually and U.S. 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."


Associated Press journalist Maria Danilova in Washington contributed to this report.

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