Iranian infant barred from entering U.S. under Trump travel ban granted boarding documents

Iranian infant barred from entering U.S. under Trump travel ban granted boarding documents


By:  Jim Ryan

An Iranian infant who was barred from entering the U.S. under President Donald Trump's travel ban has been granted boarding documents to enter the country and is expected to undergo surgery in Portland for a heart condition.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has authorized boarding for Fatemah Taghizadeh and her parents, one of the family's lawyers told The Oregonian/OregonLive late Friday. The family is looking to fly out to the United States on Monday, Iran time, though airplane tickets weren't yet booked, she said.

The development capped a tumultuous day of maneuvering that included announcements by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Oregon lawmakers.

The family will have to go through preclearance procedures in Abu Dhabi, said Jennifer Morrissey, a Portland immigration lawyer. It's her understanding that OHSU Hospital doctors want to see the family as soon as possible.

The authorization comes as a U.S. judge imposed a nationwide hold on Trump's ban on travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, siding with two states that had challenged the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country. It also comes after a group of Oregon lawmakers, including U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in search of a waiver from the travel ban for the baby and her parents.

"Whether (Fatemah) and her family are allowed access to this urgent and necessary medical care in the United States will determine whether she lives or dies," the lawmakers wrote. "Granting her family's request to travel to the U.S. is not only the moral and humanitarian decision, but would signal to Iran and the rest of the world that, even in the face of highly strained diplomatic relations, the United States offers help to those suffering tragic circumstances."

The infant was diagnosed with a heart condition last month and told she needed surgery. Doctors in Iran didn't have the equipment needed for the procedure, so her parents turned to OHSU Hospital, one of the top hospitals in the country for pediatric heart surgery, her uncle, Samad Taghizadeh, told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Taghizadeh lives in Portland with Fatemah's grandparents, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

"They said she has a very serious problem, that this is an emergency and we need to do the surgery right now," he said. Doctors in Iran would only have a 20 percent chance of success if they were to attempt the surgery there, according to a spokeswoman from Merkley's office.

Merkley submitted a formal request with federal agencies for a waiver to allow a 4-month-old Iranian girl to travel to Oregon for heart surgery.

Morrissey said the infant's family decided it would be best to have her treated at OHSU Hospital because of the hospital's pediatric cardiology expertise and family support in Portland.

Morrissey said both OHSU Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York offered to treat the infant.

Cuomo said Mount Sinai's pediatric cardiac surgical team offered to do the surgery and related care without charging the family. Law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP also agreed to finance the infant and her family's travel to and from New York City and its costs while there, Cuomo said in a statement. He indicated the the infant would be treated at Mount Sinai.

But Morrissey later told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Fatemah would come to Portland. She said she didn't know whether the money for travel and expenses would be available.

She said she believes OHSU Hospital has offered free evaluation, treatment and follow-up therapies.

Morrissey said she spoke with Taghizadeh, Fatemah's uncle, on Friday night.

"I would describe him as extremely overwhelmed and grateful," she said.

He's also excited that both the infant's parents will be able to travel with her, Morrissey said.

Wyden, Oregon's senior senator, said in a statement that he is "pleased this case appears headed toward a successful resolution with an innocent 4-month-old girl getting the life-saving treatment she needs in this country."

"This case has spotlighted the moral bankruptcy of the president's action to impose a thinly disguised religious test on people coming to our country," he said.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer released a statement about the judge's decision late Friday saying the Trump administration "will file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate." Soon after, the White House sent out a new statement that removed the word "outrageous."