Children and Refugees Who Planned Medical Care in the US Stuck After Trump Executive Order

6-year-old cancer patient, teen bombing victim among them, lawyer says.

ByABC News
January 31, 2017, 5:04 PM

— -- Refugees and children in need of medical treatment are among the thousands affected after Donald Trump issued an executive order to largely ban travelers from seven majority Muslim nations.

In Jordan, at least 20 refugees from Syria and Iraq with serious medical conditions are waiting to see if they will be allowed in the country, according to their lawyer Jayne Fleming and the Center for Victims of Torture.

Mohammed, 6, is currently undergoing cancer treatment for Ewing sarcoma according to his father, Jihad, and Fleming. The family members fled to Jordan from Syria in 2014, after a missile hit their home, Jihad told ABC News through an interpreter.

Fleming is a pro bono lawyer and the head of the human rights team for law firm Reed Smith. The people she represents from the affected nations, which she said includes an Iraqi man with hemophilia who has gone untreated for two years and a Syrian family with two nearly blind children in need of eye surgery, were "in the pipeline" for resettlement in the U.S.

She had been hoping to have the Syrian family, identified by their first names for safety reasons, medically evacuated to the U.S. so that Mohammed could get better treatment and the family would no longer have to worry about how to pay for it.

Jihad has sold his furniture and raised money online to pay for surgery and chemotherapy for his son; he said he had to borrow furniture from a friend.

When the executive order indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. was announced, Jihad said the family felt "very bad."

"That was a shock," he told ABC News. "Even Mohammad was talking about his desire to go to the U.S."

After Mohammed's cancer diagnosis, the doctors advised the family to keep the boy out of school, since chemotherapy would weaken his immune system. The family had hoped further treatment would help. "Mohammad is very smart and he was hoping to finish his studies and go to school."

Another Syrian father told ABC News that he felt he was running out of time before two of his children could go completely blind.

Basheer, who used to work as a mathematics professor in Syria, has five children. Two of his children, Hamzah, 14, and Jinan, 10, are losing their sight, he said. He said Hamzah has only 2 percent of his vision in one of his eyes.

"The medical treatment is very limited, and there aren't many organizations that supports the treatment," Basheer said.

While he was able to get his children in a school for the blind, he is eager to get to the U.S. because it is a "democratic country." He said his son could go fully blind if his condition remains untreated.

"Hamzi, in particular, he won a robot competition and a championship and was invited to speak in competitions abroad but he couldn't join because of the financial situation," Basheer said.

Another Syrian child, Mustafa, 17, lost part of his jaw and a facial bone in a mortar attack on his home when he was just 13, according to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund. He lives in Damascus, but Palestine Children's Relief Fund said it was able to help fund his travel to the U.S. in 2014, where doctors at the Shriner's Hospital in Galveston, Texas, performed reconstructive surgery.

Though the surgery helped him regain some sense of normality, he needs further procedures to fully recover, according to officials at the Palestine Children's Relief Fund. The nonprofit organization helps "arrange medical care all over the world for sick and injured children from the Middle East who cannot be adequately treated in their homeland."

But the plan to bring Mustafa back for further procedures in April has been put on hold as officials try to determine if he will be barred from entering the U.S., according to the organization's president, Steve Sosebee.

"His speech, his breathing and his eating are all impacted by the terrible injury that he somehow survived," Sosebee told ABC News. "Further delay means further suffering for a boy who already has suffered enough."

Sosebee said the indefinite hold has put additional strain on Mustafa's case because he's near the usual age limit to receive free care from Shriner's hospital and it's not clear if it will remain available should he turn 18 before he is allowed to return to the U.S.

President Trump's executive order, which he said is aimed at protecting the nation from terrorists, suspends for 90 days immigration to the U.S. from seven countries -- Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Libya. It also suspends for 120 days the entry of refugees into the U.S. and indefinitely bans Syrian refugees from coming into the country.

Though the executive order does not appear to include an exception for those in need of medical treatment, today the U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said waivers would be considered for refugees who were "ready to travel" and who would be put through "undue hardship."

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