Friday 20 September 2019

Two-year-old boy at centre of US travel ban row dies

Abdullah Hassan suffered from a genetic brain condition.

Shaima Swileh, of Yemen, holds her dying 2-year old son Abdullah Hassan (Council on American Islamic Relations, Sacramento Valley/AP)
Shaima Swileh, of Yemen, holds her dying 2-year old son Abdullah Hassan (Council on American Islamic Relations, Sacramento Valley/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

The two-year-old son of a Yemeni woman who sued the Trump administration to let her into the country to be with the ailing boy has died.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced that Abdullah Hassan had died at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where his father Ali Hassan brought him in the autumn for treatment for a genetic brain disorder.

The boy and his father are American citizens, but his mother Shaima Swileh is not so she remained at their home in Egypt while fighting for a visa.

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Yemeni citizens are restricted from entering the United States under President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

She applied for a waiver in 2017, but US officials granted it only in December after the council sued.

Ms Swileh held her son for the first time in hospital on December 19.

Following their son’s death, Mr Hassan said: “We are heartbroken. We had to say goodbye to our baby, the light of our lives.”

Citizens from Yemen and four other mostly Muslim countries, along with North Korea and Venezuela, are restricted from coming to the United States under President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

When the boy’s health worsened, the father went ahead to California in October to get their son help, and Ms Swileh remained in Egypt hoping for a visa. As the couple fought for a waiver, doctors put Abdullah on life support.

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Ali Hassan listens to speakers at a news conference after his wife Shaima Swileh arrived at San Francisco International Airport (AP)

“My wife is calling me every day wanting to kiss and hold her son for the one last time,” Mr Ali Hassan said at a news conference earlier this month.

He started losing hope and was considering taking his son off life support to end his suffering. Then a hospital social worker reached out to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which sued on December 16, according to Basim Elkarra, executive director of the group in Sacramento.

The US state department granted Ms Swileh a waiver the next day.

Saad Sweilem, a lawyer with the council who represents the family, said: “With their courage, this family has inspired our nation to confront the realities of Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban.

“In his short life, Abdullah has been a guiding light for all of us in the fight against xenophobia and family separation.”

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