A Yemeni mother who fought to obtain a visa waiver to travel to California to see her terminally ill 2-year-old son was finally reunited last week with her only child.
On Friday night her son, Abdullah, died at the U.C.S.F. Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where he was being treated for hypomyelination, a genetic degenerative brain condition, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group known as CAIR, said on Saturday.
“We are heartbroken. We had to say goodbye to our baby, the light of our lives,” Abdullah’s father, Ali Hassan, said in a statement. “We want to thank everyone for your love and support at this difficult time.”
The family’s plight received widespread attention in the news media and drew support from three members of Congress who wrote a letter to the State Department asking for an expedited decision on the visa waiver.
In October, the boy and his father journeyed from Cairo to Stockton, Calif., in search of better care. Mr. Hassan is an American citizen and a resident of Stockton.
Abdullah’s mother, Shaima Swileh, a Yemeni citizen, could not go to California because people from Yemen were barred from entering the United States under President Trump’s travel ban. Seven countries are included in the ban, most of them predominantly Muslim.
Obtaining a visa to visit the United States can be a long and arduous process.
The couple were married in Yemen in February 2016, and the next year they traveled to Cairo to apply for an I-130 visa, or a visa for a relative who is not American. Ms. Swileh had her first interview at the United States Embassy in Cairo in November 2017.
Ms. Swileh went to the embassy for her second interview in January, when she was told that because of the travel ban, her application could not proceed unless she qualified for a waiver, according to Mr. Hassan’s lawyer. In August, she had a third interview and was told that the State Department was reviewing her eligibility.
During this time Abdullah’s condition worsened, so Mr. Hassan brought his son to the United States without his wife.
In December, the Sacramento Valley office of CAIR and a law firm specializing in immigration filed a lawsuit in federal court stating that the embassy in Cairo had purposely delayed a decision on Ms. Swileh’s application before the travel ban went into effect.
“This case is a perfect example of how the waiver process is a sham,” Jennifer Nimer, one of the family’s lawyers, said in a statement this month, adding that the embassy had “callously ignored over 28 desperate pleas for help from the family over the past year and even the expedite requests filed by the prior attorney, which contained medical documentation showing that the child was on the verge of death.”
The State Department granted her a visa waiver on Dec. 18.
On Dec. 19, Ms. Swileh arrived in California and traveled to the hospital to visit her dying son, who was on life support.
“Dearest Abdullah, you will never be forgotten,” CAIR Sacramento Valley wrote on Friday on Facebook. “We belong to God and to Him we shall return.”