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As son undergoes cancer treatment, Chicago Ridge man pushes for U.S. to allow Yemen-based wife to travel

Mohsin Omer has balanced his family living in two different continents. But after his 12-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer, he’s pushing for the U.S. to allow his wife to travel to Chicago.

Mohsin Omer standing outside Advocate Children’s Hospital, 4440 95th St.. Oak Lawn, Sunday, March 14, 2021.
Mohsin Omer has been trying to receive a humanitarian visa for his wife, who is living in Yemen, so she can be next to their 12-year-old son who was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Mohsin Omer was in the midst of waiting for his Yemen-based wife’s green card to arrive when the couple’s 12-year-old son started experiencing neck pain in December.

Soon after the boy, who lives with Omer in southwest suburban Chicago Ridge, was diagnosed with Burkitt leukemia.

Grappling over trauma of having a severely ill child, Omer petitioned the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, hoping his wife could come as soon as possible so they could care for their ill son together.

But nothing has come of it so far, Omer’s Chicago-based attorney Nicole Provax said recently.

“Now with my son’s situation, I can’t wait longer,” Omer, 37, said of his decision to file for a “humanitarian parole” application for his wife, Sanaa Saleh Abdellah Mohammad.

“It’s not for me, it’s for my son.”

Humanitarian parole allows individuals to temporarily enter the United States due to an emergency situation. The application typically takes 90 to 120 days for the USCIS to process, Provax said.

Officials with USCIS declined to discuss Omer’s family’s situation because the agency doesn’t comment on individual cases.

But an email the USCIS sent Omer said his request was not expedited in February because there wasn’t a “time sensitive action that must occur within a specific time frame.”

Omer, a U.S. citizen, was also asked to provide financial records to prove he could support his wife if she is allowed into the country, Provax said.

Omer and Saleh Abdellah Mohammad’s son, Abdulla Omer, has already started chemotherapy and is expected to continue the treatment for months, according to a letter the family shared with the Sun-Times from Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Mohsin Omer standing  outside of Advocate Children’s Hospital at 4440 95th St. in Oak Lawn, Sunday, March 14, 2021.
Mohsin Omer’s 12-year-old son has been diagnosed with cancer.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Doctors told Omer that his son’s cancer is treatable, but Abdulla has been hospitalized because the chemotherapy makes him sick. Earlier this month, the boy was admitted to the hospital when his blood pressure went down, Omer said.

Family helps Omer take care of Abdulla but it has not been easy.

“I have a cousin who helps me, but she’s not his mom,” said Omer, who works at night as a truck driver.

“I’m thankful for her. No one can take his mom’s place. It’s really hard.”

Omer in 2017 had applied for a “petition for alien relative” with the USCIS, which would allow his wife to become a permanent resident through marriage. That application was recently approved, but it could still take six months or more for Omer’s wife to obtain a green card, Provax said.

At the end of the third quarter of fiscal year 2020, there were more nearly 1.5 million pending petitions for immigrant relatives, according to the USCIS.

Omer and Saleh Abdellah Mohammad’s families are from the same area in Yemen and knew each other for years. The couple got married in 2007. Ever since, Omer has been traveling to Yemen every year for a few months to see his wife and other relatives. The couple has three other children who live overseas with Saleh Abdellah Mohammad. Abdulla is the oldest.

Abdulla moved to Chicago Ridge in February 2020 — just before the coronavirus pandemic hit — so he could attend American schools, Omer said.

Abdulla often asks for his mother. But Omer doesn’t want him to worry, so he hasn’t told the boy of the hurdles of getting her to the United States.

“If my son didn’t deserve it, I don’t know who else does,” Omer said of his eldest child’s desire for his mother to be at his side.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.