Civil rights and religious leaders today called on the U.S. State Department to allow a Yemeni mother to visit her 2-year-old son who is clinging to life at an Oakland hospital.
Shaima Swileh is currently in Egypt, hoping for a waiver that will let her visit her son Abdullah at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Abdullah’s father, Ali Hassan of Stockton, broke down in tears at a news conference held today in Sacramento as he pleaded with authorities to allow Swileh to travel to the U.S.
“My wife is calling me every day wanting to kiss and hold our son for one last time,” Hassan said. “Time is running out, please help us get my family together again.”
Abdullah, who turned 2 years old last week, has a genetic brain condition that has worsened. His father brought him to the U.S. earlier this year. Both Abdullah and his father are U.S. citizens.
Swileh, however, is a Yemeni national and is unable to visit under President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which applies to mostly Muslim majority nations.
Doctors had told the family that the boy’s body wouldn’t withstand life support much longer.
“Our hearts are breaking for this family,” said Saad Sweilem, a civil rights attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “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.”
The family’s plight has drawn support from a wide spectrum of religious leaders and civil rights activists, who hope to put pressure on Congress and the Trump administration.
Betty Williams, president of the Sacramento branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called on Trump to allow an exception.
“It’s criminal that we have to stand before you and beg” for the family to be together, Williams said.
Lynn Berkley-Baskin, community outreach chair for the Jewish Community Relations Council, urged U.S. officials to grant Swileh a waiver that “will show what we say about family values is true” and to show compassion for the mother and son.
“Lack of compassion robs our country of our soul,” she said.
A State Department spokesperson wouldn’t address questions today about whether the agency was considering a waiver for Swileh, saying on background that details of individual cases are confidential.
An online action alert by CAIR, demanding that the State Department and the U.S. Embassy Cairo reunite the family, has received more than 6,000 entries of support.
-Kathleen Kirkwood, Bay City News