Parents in Egypt plea to feds for approval to visit their daughter treated for serious burns in N.Y. hospital
The desperate parents who sent their horrifically burned daughter on an EgyptAir flight from Cairo to New York can't travel to her Long Island hospital due to prior visa violations, they revealed Monday.
Ibrahim Abdelhalim said he and his wife got the heartbreaking news after separate interviews Wednesday and Saturday with U.S. embassy officials in Egypt.
He acknowledged they previously overstayed visas and were barred from the U.S. for a decade — but said his daughter is an American citizen who needs at least one of them during her grueling recovery at Nassau University Medical Center.
"I understand we — me and her mom — broke the immigration law, but they (are) not punishing us, they (are) punishing an underage American child who's already suffering and in great pain," he told The News.
"It's already horrible for my little girl, and they (are) making it worse."
Abdelhalim shared a letter written by his daughter's New York doctor urging authorities to expedite the parents' paperwork and let them visit 16-year-old Aiyah as she receives skin grafts and other painful treatments for the second and third degree burns now covering 45% of her body after a kitchen fire.
"As expected from burns of this severity, Aiyah has suffered a great psychological trauma," Dr. Louis Riina wrote in the letter obtained by The News.
"It would be in her best interest if her parents can be here with her as soon as feasible. It would greatly facilitate her care and would be an immense psychological boost for her," the doctor said.
As The News previously reported, Aiyah began screaming halfway through her Oct. 15 EgyptAir flight from Cairo after her pain medication wore off.
Her parents tried to accompany her, but the embassy said the paperwork would take time, so the family hired a private nurse to go instead, her dad said. The family had people waiting for Aiyah when she landed, and the teen was rushed immediately to Nassau University, where she's been in critical but stable condition in the burn unit ever since, Dr. Riina wrote.
Her Brooklyn-based maternal uncle and aunt have been "continuously" by her hospital bedside, but they have three young children of their own, causing "significant hardship," the doctor said.
Aiyah's dad said he went for his emergency visa interview Oct. 26 and his wife went on Saturday. Both were denied with the explanation they're only eight years into their 10-year ban on traveling to the U.S., he said.
The couple was directed to apply for humanitarian parole, but that process takes about four months, the dad said.
"In our current situation, where my daughter is in critical condition, the 120 (day) process is meaningless, even if we were approved," he said.
"All the doors I knocked turn out to be locked," he lamented.
A spokesman with the U.S. State Department declined to comment on the case when reached by The News Monday.
"Applications are refused if an applicant is found ineligible under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act," the spokesman said in an email.
A call and email sent to the Egyptian embassy in New York were not immediately returned Monday.
Abdelhalim said he still hopes someone will take pity on his family's plight and allow his wife to travel to New York for a limited period under some type of compassionate pardon.
"We just need one of us to come," he said. "Allow my wife to come for a limited time, to see through the treatment, then she can come back and that will be ok for me," he said.