Activists demand 'Muslim ban waiver' for mother to visit her dying 2-year-old in Oakland

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The Council of American Islamic Relations in Sacramento is calling attention to the case of a mother from Yemen who is trying to get to the United States where her 2-year-old son is on life support at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. 

Abdullah Hassan suffers from a rare brain condition and was brought to the hospital by his father, Ali Hassan, five months ago, for medical treatment. Both father and son have dual citizenships, for the United States and Yemen. The boy's mother is a Yemeni national. 

"My son Abdullah needs his mother," the elder Hassan said through tears at a news conference in Sacramento on Monday. "My wife's calling me every day. Wanting to kiss and hold our son. For the one last time. Time is running out." 

Their son turned 2 on Saturday. A "Happy Birthday Abdullah!!" poster hangs over his hospital bed that his family shared on social media. Abdullah is pictured underneath blankets, tubes and tape surrounding his tiny body.

Not all cases of hypomyelination are fatal, but in Abdullah’s case, the effect is severe enough that it is now interfering with his ability to breathe. Doctors said the toddler is not expected to live much longer. It's those doctors who alerted CAIR about the family's struggle.

Shaima Swileh is not being allowed to come say goodbye to her son, because of the Trump administration’s  ban on travelers from certain Muslim countries.  She is currently waiting alone in Egypt, where the family relocated to in order to try to get the best medical treatment for her son. Eventually, the family realized that they wanted to go to Children's Hospital in Oakland. 

She had applied for a visa more than a year ago but her "repeated requests for an expedited waiver have been ignored," according to a fundraising page set up for the family.  Father and son made the tough decision to travel to the United States without her. 

“Shaima finds herself trapped in Egypt, desperate to be reunited with Abdullah, whom she has not seen in months,” CAIR said in a statement.

The State Department sent an email to KTVU, saying the agency does not comment on the details of individual cases. But in general, a spokesperson said that the department "makes every effort to facilitate legitimate travel by international visitors...All visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act." 

Travelers from the countries under the ban can request waivers, but so far exemptions have been rare. The banned countries include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad and North Korea.

Saad Sweilem, a civil rights attorney with the American-Islamic council, told the Chronicle he believes only about 2 percent of requested waivers have been granted.

CAIR is urging people email the US Embassy in Cairo, demanding that  a “Muslim ban waiver” be granted to the boy’s mother immediately. At the news conference, CAIR attorneys were joined by leaders from the NAACP, the Jewish Community Relations Council and other faith groups. 

“Our hearts are breaking for this family,” Sweilem said in a statement. “The loss of a child is something no parent should experience, but not being able to be there in your child’s last moments is unfathomably cruel."