A Yemeni mother who had been barred from traveling to the United States under the White House travel ban has arrived in California to say goodbye to her dying 2-year-old son.
The US State Department granted Shaima Swileh a visa this week after she spent more than two months apart from her young son, Abdullah. She last saw him on October 1 when her husband, Ali Hassan, 22, flew him to the United States for treatment for a genetic brain condition. Abdullah is the couple’s only child.
Hassan and Abdullah are American citizens, but the ban restricts Yemeni nationals like Swileh from entering the country.
Swileh flew out of Egypt and landed Wednesday night at San Francisco International Airport. She is expected to travel about 22 miles to the University of California San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland to reunite with Abdullah, who is on life support.
Her husband made a public plea this week to President Donald Trump and to consular officials to expedite his wife’s visa application so she could see her son. He told CNN that Swileh just wants to see their son to “give him a kiss before he goes.”
“She’s going crazy,” he said this week.
Doctors have told Hassan that patients like his son are usually on life support for two or three weeks, or a month at most. Abdullah has been on a ventilator at the Children’s Hospital for more than a month.
Swileh is traveling to the United States on an I-130 visa, which allows close relatives of American citizens to enter the country, according to Basim Elkarra, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Sacramento Valley chapter.
A fundraising effort is paying for her flight and the boy’s funeral, according to Elkarra.
The President’s travel ban, which has been touted as a way to thwart terrorists’ entry into the United States, has drawn legal challenges. But the executive order still restricts citizens of Yemen and six other countries from entering the country.
According to the State Department, consul officers can make exceptions to the travel restriction when a visa’s “issuance is in the national interest, the applicant poses no national security or public safety threat to the United States, and denial of the visa would cause undue hardship.”
Hassan told CNN on Tuesday that his wife called him crying when she found out she had been granted the waiver that day.
“She was literally crying of happiness,” Hassan said.
Swileh had been crying tears of sadness daily, too, her husband said. Hassan said he knows time is running out. His wife already missed a milestone in their son’s sort life: Abdullah’s second birthday on Saturday.
“All families belong together. There is nobody that should be separated,” Hassan said.
Dan Simon reported from San Francisco. Darran Simon wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Nicole Chavez and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.