Frantic Yemeni Mother Granted Long-Awaited U.S. Visa to Reunite with Her Dying Toddler in California

After nearly 14 months, the State Department finally granted permission for a Yemeni mother living in Egypt to travel to Oakland, California to visit her seriously ill 2-year-old son.

The State Department did not provide details to The Washington Post about the case. But with the intervention of a civil rights advocacy organization and civil rights lawyers, Shaimi Swileh, 21, and her husband, Ali Hassan, 22, were granted a travel ban waiver when the U.S. Embassy in Cairo called her to confirm Tuesday.

The toddler, Abdullah, lives with his father, a U.S. citizen, in Stockton, Calif. Nearby UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in nearby Oakland is treating the child for hypomyelination, a degenerative brain disorder.

The couple had waited for months, fighting President Donald Trump's travel ban so that she may visit their dying son.

"My son, Abdullah, needs his mother," Hassan said in a news conference Monday at the Council on American-Islamic Relations office in Sacramento, reported The Washington Post, before Swileh's waiver was granted.

"My wife is calling me every day wanting to kiss and hold her son for the last time," added Hassan. "Time is running out. Please help us get my family together again."

Swileh tried in vain to obtain her travel visa until now due to the ban, all the while updating embassy officials about the worsening condition of her young son.

Yemen citizens living in Egypt, Swileh and Hassan married in 2016 in Yemen. In January 2017, the Trump administration targeted Yemen and several other Muslim countries with the travel ban, complicating matters for such families.

After interviewing several times with the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the couple aimed to transport Abdullah to a U.S. hospital for care. They waited first for a travel visa, then a travel ban waiver for over a year altogether – before Hassan and their son moved to Stockton.

Eventually, last week the legal and advocacy organization, CAIR, helped turn the tide for the desperate couple when it enlisted civil rights lawyer Saad Sweilem and co-counsel Jennifer Nimer.

The attorneys asked a judge in Washington to order the government to expedite Swileh's waiver. By Tuesday, the matter was resolved and Swileh had secured her travel ban waiver.

The couple drew other public support from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Omar, a Somalian refugee, made history in November when she became one of two Muslim women elected to Congress.

Lee said Monday she was working to reunite mother and son.

"As a member of Congress, and a mother myself, the cruelty of barring a mother from reuniting with a sick child takes my breath away," Lee wrote on Twitter. "This travel ban is inhumane and un-American."

"As a mother and an immigrant from one of the so-called 'banned' countries," said Omar in a statement, as The Washington Post reported.

"I am sickened and outraged by the Trump administration's disregard for a mother separated from her son," Omar added. "Instead of extending humanity and compassion to migrants and refugees seeking a better life, we treat them as criminals. We should be welcoming immigrants into our country, not demonizing them."

Sweilem told The Washington Post that Abdullah suffered from seizures as an infant. Time is of the essence for the mother to see her son.

I am working hard to reunite Shaima Swileh with her son before it’s too late. As a member of Congress, and a mother myself, the cruelty of barring a mother from reuniting with a sick child takes my breath away. This travel ban is inhumane and un-American.

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) December 17, 2018