Yemeni mother arrives in US to visit dying son

Shaima Swileh had been prevented from seeing two-year-old son with rare brain disorder due to the US travel ban.

A Yemeni woman who fought for the right to see her dying son has arrived in the United States after the Trump administration gave her a waiver to its travel ban.

Shaima Swileh was mobbed by well-wishers at San Francisco International Airport in California on Wednesday.

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

Hassan and Swileh were then driven to see their two-year-old son, Abdullah, at the children’s hospital where the boy is on life support.

The US State Department granted Swileh a waiver on Tuesday after lawyers with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sued this week.

Swileh’s case prompted widespread outrage after reports surfaced that the young mother had been waiting for more than a year for a decision on a visa waiver.

Swileh’s visa application was rejected last year because of restrictions introduced in the travel ban, which bars individuals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

Hassan had previously said that he had requested that the Department of State expedite a decision on Swileh’s visa waiver plea so she could say goodbye to their son Abdullah, who has a rare degenerative brain disease and may not survive much longer.

Reporting from San Francisco International Airport, Al Jazeera’s John Hendren said the case put renewed focus on the Trump administration’s travel ban.

“I think it put the travel ban into perspective in a really simple way that people can easily understand,” he said.

“It forbids people from a huge swathe of the world from entering the United States for no reason other than their country of origin. In this case, when they tried to seek a waiver, it took so long that their child was literally at death’s door by the time that the mother arrived.

“In the words of many people we’ve talked to here, this is not a fair process. The lawyer says that the waiver process is a ‘sham’, so a lot of people here feel discriminated against for no other reason than that they are Muslim. That is what they are telling us today,” Hendren said. 


While Hassan and Abdullah are US citizens, Swileh has Yemeni citizenship.

The couple moved to Egypt after marrying in war-torn Yemen in 2016 and had been trying to get a visa for Swileh since 2017 so the family could move to California.

When the boy’s health worsened, Hassan went ahead to California in October to get their son help. As the couple fought for a waiver, doctors put Abdullah on life support.

In addition to nationals of Yemen, the most recent version of US President Donald Trump‘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.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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