Tuesday 17 September 2019

Yemeni mother arrives in US to see dying son

Shaima Swileh’s two-year-old son Abdullah is on life-support at a Californian hospital.

Shaima Swileh, centre, stands with her husband Ali Hassan, after arriving at San Francisco International Airport (Jeff Chiu/AP)
Shaima Swileh, centre, stands with her husband Ali Hassan, after arriving at San Francisco International Airport (Jeff Chiu/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

A Yemeni mother who was at the centre of a year-long legal battle for the right to give her dying son one last kiss has arrived in the United States.

Shaima Swileh was greeted by a crowd of well-wishers as she arrived at San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday night.

She was on her way to see her two-year-old son Abdullah, who is on life-support at an Oakland hospital.

Ms Swileh won a waiver from the Trump administration’s travel ban, allowing her to fly to California.

Wearing dark glasses and a white headscarf, she was mobbed by well-wishers after arriving in San Francisco.

“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.”

This is a difficult time for our family but we are blessed to be together Ali Hassan

The two then were driven away to see their son at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

“This will allow us to mourn with dignity,” the boy’s father had said in an earlier statement.

Mr Hassan, who is a US citizen and lives in Stockton, brought Abdullah to California in the autumn to get treatment for a genetic brain disorder.

“My wife is calling me every day wanting to kiss and hold her son for the one last time,” Mr Hassan said at a news conference on Monday, a day before the government granted the visa.

ipanews_a1e0a82a-fea6-4b25-9bac-56ce470bdbeb_embedded240303956
Ali Hassan speaks after his wife Shaima Swileh arrived at San Francisco International Airport (Jeff Chiu/AP)

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

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

When the boy’s health worsened, Mr 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.

“I am emailing them, crying, and telling them that my son is dying,” Mr Hassan said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee newspaper.

He started losing hope and was considering pulling his son off life support to end his suffering.

But then a hospital social worker reached out to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which sued on Monday, said Basim Elkarra, executive director of the group in Sacramento.

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 could not comment on the family’s situation but that in general cases are handled individually, and US 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.”

In addition to the waiver, the US government gave Ms Swileh a visa that will allow her to remain in the United States with her husband and begin a path toward US citizenship, Mr Elkarra said.

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News