Mourners honor boy whose Yemeni mom fought travel ban
Lodi, Calif. – Mourners at a mosque in California said goodbye Saturday to a 2-year-old boy whose Yemeni mother successfully fought the Trump administration’s travel ban to hold the boy before he died in the United States.
Abdullah Hassan died Friday at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where his father, Ali Hassan, brought him in the fall to get treatment for a genetic brain disorder, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. He had been on life support when his mother, Shaima Swileh, arrived last week.
“We are heartbroken. We had to say goodbye to our baby, the light of our lives,” Hassan, a U.S. citizen, said in a statement released by the advocacy group.
Hassan and members of the Islamic community in central California prayed at a funeral for Abdullah and listened to remarks from Muhammad Younus, imam of the California Islamic Center in the farming town of Lodi.
The casket covered by a white and green cloth was carried in, and the men in attendance could touch it before it was taken to a nearby cemetery and buried. In Muslim tradition, a body must be buried within 72 hours of death.
Hassan and his wife moved to Egypt after marrying in war-torn Yemen in 2016. 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 United States under President Donald 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 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 Dec. 16, said Basim Elkarra, executive director of the group in Sacramento.
The State Department granted 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.”