OAKLAND, Calif. - A 2-year-old Yemeni-American boy who had been separated from his mother for 17 months due to travel restrictions died Friday after a battle with a degenerative brain disease, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Abdullah Hassan died at an Oakland hospital at 8:04 p.m., the newspaper reported, citing Basim Elkarra, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The boy’s mother, Shaima Swileh, a citizen of Yemen, fought to secure a visa to reach Abdullah’s side before he died. Swileh had been repeatedly been denied a travel visa but was finally granted one Dec. 18 after the U.S. Embassy in Cairo gave her a presidential proclamation waiver, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. She arrived in Oakland on Wednesday, the newspaper reported.
“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. We ask you to kindly keep Abdullah and our family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Hassan is a U.S. citizen and so was his son. President Donald Trump issued an executive order days after taking office that restricted visas for Yemen nationals and citizens of other countries. That kept Swileh out of the United States, the Bee reported.
Attorneys for the family said embassy officials in Cairo ignored 28 “desperate pleas,” including medical documents confirming the boy’s condition from the family, to expedite Swileh’s visa request, the Chronicle reported.
“With their courage, this family has inspired our nation to confront the realities of Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban,” Saad Sweilem, a civil rights attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations Sacramento Valley office, said in a statement. “In his short life, Abdullah has been a guiding light for all of us in the fight against xenophobia and family separation.”
Abdullah’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Lodi, California, the Bee reported.
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