Yemeni mother granted visa waiver arrives at SFO

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After more than two months apart, a Yemeni mother is finally able to see her dying two-year-old son. Shaima Swileh was barred from traveling to the United States under the White House travel ban. 

The U.S. State Department granted her a visa waiver after intense media pressure and a public outcry over the family's story. Swileh arrived at SFO at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The mother flew out of Egypt and was greeted by more than 100 supporters. Many of them Yemeni-Americans from the Bay Area and Stockton where the father is from.

Swileh dressed in a white head garb, sunglasses and dark clothing arrived at SFO to a swarm of cameras and hugs from supporters.

“This is a difficult time for our family but we are blessed to be together and we ask that you respect our privacy as we go to be with our son again,” she said. 

With her husband Ali Hassan by her side, Swileh last saw her 2-year-old son, Abdullah, on Oct. 1.

Her husband brought their only son to the United States for treatment at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland for a genetic brain condition. Abdullah is currently on life support. The father and the boy are dual citizens of the U.S. and Yemen.

The travel ban restricts Swileh, a Yemeni national, from entering the country. The father has made a public plea for his wife to see her son before the boy takes his last breath.

Civil rights advocates aired their frustration and called the arrival bittersweet.

At the news conference two apparent supporters of Swileh said the waiver process in the United States is a "sham." 

“This family desperately reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo 28 times and despite their pleas received automated responses,” said Basim Elkarra of CAIR.

“While we are glad that we could get relief for Ali, Shaima and Abdullah, the fact she has her visa now does not erase the unimaginable pain and suffering that was inflicted upon this family for the past year,” said Banan Al-Akhras of Nimer Law.

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Swileh applied for a waiver and made multiple requests before the organization got involved.

CAIR has repeatedly called the waiver process a sham and said Swileh should have been approved months ago. They said, hundreds of others are waiting for waivers and this family's suffering should not be in vain.

For now, the family knows time is of the essence. The mother already missed her son's second birthday on Saturday.

At least now, they can be together as a family during this difficult time.

Bay City News contributed to this report.