“I want to thank CAIR, the media, elected officials and people all over the world for their support. This is a difficult time for our family, but we are blessed to be together. I ask you to respect our privacy as we go to be with our son again. The Muslim ban has hurt Yemeni American families and needs to end.”
CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra said:
“It’s important to remember that it didn’t have to come to this. This family desperately reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo 28 times, and despite their pleas only received automated responses. It took a massive national campaign and lawsuit by CAIR-Sacramento Valley and Nimer Law, as well as the support of elected officials, MPower Change and the general public to make this happen. All of you helped us create a campaign to amplify the voices of those who won’t let America be defined by anti-immigrant and xenophobic policies.”
After the brief press conference, the family was then escorted by CAIR-SV personnel and law enforcement from SFO to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
She was reunited with her ailing son at around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday.
(NOTE: Find a full-size copy of the image of Shaima reuniting with her son for media use here. Please credit the photo as follows: Council on American Islamic Relations, Sacramento Valley.)
In addition to organizing a public media and mobilization campaign, CAIR-SV partnered with Nimer Law, LLC, to file an emergency lawsuit in federal court on Monday and had prepared to file for a temporary restraining order Tuesday if the visa was not issued.
Swileh was initially interviewed for her visa while the proclamation was enjoined, and the lawsuit alleged that the embassy in Cairo purposely delayed a decision on her application until the Muslim Ban proclamation went into effect, at which time they informed Swileh that she was denied under the proclamation.
Under the provisions of the proclamation, once a visa is denied, consular officers are required to automatically assess whether or not individuals from the banned countries qualify for a waiver. As the spouse of a U.S. citizen and the mother of a U.S.-citizen child with a life-threatening medical condition, Swileh clearly met the criteria for a waiver.
However, despite the family’s repeated requests to expedite and clearly documenting their son’s medical condition, the embassy refused to act until CAIR-SV brought media attention to their plight and filed a lawsuit.
In a statement, CAIR-SV Civil Rights Attorney Saad Sweilem, who represents the family, said:
“There is no justification for why Shaima was separated from Abdullah for months. It should not have taken a massive campaign and lawsuit to get her this waiver. The fact that it did shows that this ban is a Muslim ban and that the waiver process is a sham. We will continue to fight for thousands of American families who have been affected by this administration’s xenophobic policies.”
In a statement, Banan Al-Akhras, an associate of Nimer, said:
“This case clearly demonstrates what a tragic nightmare the waiver process is and the real human consequences it can have. There are hundreds of others waiting for wavier applications to be adjudicated with no end in sight. We hope this family’s suffering will not be in vain and that the incredible public support of the past week will be used to demand some answers and some meaningful change.”
Abdullah was brought to California by his father months ago to get medical treatment due to a degenerative brain condition that has continued to worsen. Abdullah and his father are U.S. citizens.
Swileh is a Yemeni national who was unable to come to the United States to be with her ailing child and her husband because of the Muslim Ban. She had applied for a waiver and multiple expedite requests before CAIR got involved in the case last week.
She finally received a visa waiver from the State Department on Tuesday morning.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
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CONTACT: CAIR-SV Communications Manager Kalin Kipling-Mojaddedi, 916-441-6269, kkipling@cair.com