An 11-year-old Yemeni girl with cerebral palsy landed in New York on Saturday after originally being denied an exemption from President Trump's travel ban.
Shaema Alomari had become a cause célèbre among opponents of the ban against travelers from five predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. After a battle seeking entry into the U.S. for medical treatment, her family was granted a waiver.
After landing, the family of five was greeted with flowers, balloons and a crowd of supporters and reporters. The grand welcome was planned by the Yemeni American Merchants Association at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"Today was a day filled with joy," Debbie Almontaser, the group's secretary, said on Twitter. "We all cried tears of joy as they walked out. Shaema was so happy to see us all!"
She said the family is expected to remain in New York for several days before returning home to California, where Shaema will receive comprehensive medical treatment.
According to the Pars Equality Center, which helps travelers from Persian-speaking countries integrate into the United States, the girl has had difficulty getting her required medicines because of the civil war in Yemen.
"Doctors told her parents that she will not survive in Yemen," the group said in legal papers submitted as part of the travel ban case.
Shaema's situation was cited during oral arguments at the Supreme Court last month.
"This waiver process has excluded ... a (girl) with cerebral palsy who wants to come to the United States to save her life, and she can't move or talk," Neal Katyal, the attorney who argued the case against the ban, told the justices.
Following the Supreme Court hearing, the girl's father, Nageeb Alomari, an American citizen, heard from U.S. consular officials in Djibouti that the case had been re-evaluated and the family would get a waiver.
But despite the momentary moments of happiness on Saturday, the Yemeni American Merchants Association said tomorrow it would continue the fight against the president's travel ban and stigmas about Muslims.
"I can't even really call today a celebration," said Zaid Nagi, the group's vice president. "There are thousands of Yemeni Americans who are still suffering before of this so-called travel ban."
Trump's travel ban has been revised twice since it was initially proposed a week into his presidency last year. Federal courts from Maryland to Hawaii have pronounced it unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court let the latest version go into effect while under review.
During oral arguments last month, several of the court's liberal justices questioned Solicitor General Noel Francisco about waivers that had been granted to only about 430 people, a fraction of those applying for visas.
"Is this window dressing or not?" Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked. "What's in place to ensure it's not?"