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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

Yemeni mother who fought Trump travel ban says goodbye to son

Two-year-old Abdullah died on Friday after being on life support

Ali Hassan, second from right, views the wrapped body of his two-year-old son, Abdullah Hassan, at his funeral at the Sacramento Islamic Center on Saturday. AP
Ali Hassan, second from right, views the wrapped body of his two-year-old son, Abdullah Hassan, at his funeral at the Sacramento Islamic Center on Saturday. AP

Members of the Islamic community in central California gathered around the body of Abdullah Hassan on Saturday to say goodbye to the two-year-old.

The child, wrapped in white cloth and laid in a casket, died on Friday in Oakland in the presence of his Yemeni mother, who successfully fought the Trump administration travel ban to be with her son.

The father, 22-year-old Ali Hassan, relocated with Abdullah in the fall to get treatment for a genetic brain disorder that was affecting his son. Abdullah's mother, 21-year-old Shaima Swileh was separated from them due to travel restrictions issued by President Donald Trump. The boy had been on life support when his mother arrived last week.

"We are heartbroken. We had to say goodbye to our baby, the light of our lives," the young father, a US citizen, said in a statement.

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Mr Hassan and his wife moved to Egypt after marrying in war-torn Yemen in 2016. Ms Swileh is not an American citizen and remained in Egypt as she fought for a visa for over a year so the family could move to the United States.

Citizens from Yemen and four other mostly Muslim countries, along with North Korea and Venezuela, are restricted from coming to the US under Mr Trump's travel ban.

When the boy's health worsened, the father went ahead to California in October to get their son help. As the couple fought for a waiver, doctors put Abdullah on life support.

"My wife is calling me every day wanting to kiss and hold her son for the one last time," said Mr Hassan, choking up at a news conference earlier this month.

He started losing hope and was considering pulling his son off life support to end his suffering. But then a hospital social worker reached out to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which sued on December 16, said Basim Elkarra, executive director of the group in Sacramento.

The State Department granted Ms Swileh a waiver the next day. She was pictured cradling her son in the hospital 10 days ago.

"With their courage, this family has inspired our nation to confront the realities of Donald Trump's Muslim Ban," said Saad Sweilem, a lawyer with the council who represents the family. "In his short life, Abdullah has been a guiding light for all of us in the fight against xenophobia and family separation."

Updated: December 30, 2018 02:18 PM

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