Shaima Swileh’s husband Ali Hassan appealed to the US State Department on Monday to expedite his wife’s application for a waiver so she could say goodbye to their dying son, Abdulla.
“My wife is calling me every day, wanting to kiss and hold her son for one last time,” the 22-year-old US national said as he broke down in tears. “Time is running out. Please help us get my family together again.”
Abdulla has a rare degenerative brain disease and may not be able to withstand life support for much longer, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement last week.
Swileh’s visa was rejected last year because of the travel ban, which has been dubbed the “Muslim ban” by many, under which the Trump administration imposed restrictions on people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The 21-year-old mother, who lives in Egypt, applied for a waiver, but has been waiting to hear back for more than a year, despite repeated requests to expedite her case, CAIR said.
“Now we see the Muslim ban’s effect in the most dehumanising way,” said Basim Elkarra, a campaigner at CAIR, on Monday.
“We are calling on the Department of State to issue a Muslim ban waiver, to allow Shaima Swileh, the wife of a US citizen, the mother of a US citizen, to hold her child one last time and to allow her to mourn with dignity.”
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, Hassan said Abdulla would not survive a journey to Egypt to see Swileh.
The couple met and married in Yemen, according to the Chronicle. Their son was born in Yemen, nearly two years after the country’s civil war began.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed the impoverished country to the verge of famine, prompting the United Nations to call the situation there “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”. Rights groups and a war monitor have put the death toll at more than 60,000.
Swileh left Yemen for Egypt when Abdulla was eight months old. Hassan met her in Cairo and obtained travel documents for his son from the US embassy, the Chronicle said.
He was forced to leave Swileh and travel to his hometown of Stockton, California because of Abdulla’s deteriorating condition.
The State Department does award waivers, but very rarely. It has declined to comment on the case.
In addition to nationals of Yemen, the third version of Trump administration’s travel ban prohibits entry to the US by most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia and Syria. It also affects visitors from North Korea and some travellers from Venezuela.
Rights groups sought to overturn the ban in the US Supreme Court, claiming it was biased against Muslims. But the top court rejected the petition in June.