Iranian child seeking emergency eye
surgery arrives in New York
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[February 07, 2017]
By Chris Francescani
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A young Iranian girl
in need of emergency eye surgery only available in the United States
arrived safely at a New York airport on Monday evening, after a court
halted new travel restrictions put in place suddenly last month that
threatened to delay the vital treatment.
Her mother, Fahimeh Kashkooli, is living in the United States on a
student visa while she earns a master’s degree at New York's Fordham
University School of Law. She shed tears and smiled as she took her
daughter out of the airport through a crowd of well-wishers and
“I cannot express my feelings in words,” Kashkooli said softly as she
waited at a John F. Kennedy International Airport arrival gate on Monday
“I was in pain every single moment, but now I feel so much better.”
For several years, Alma Kashkooli, 12, has been traveling to the United
States to see her mother and get advanced medical treatment, including a
previous surgery in San Diego, for an extremely rare condition that took
several years to even be diagnosed.
She had been scheduled to arrive in the United States on Jan. 31 - two
days after the restrictions took effect - for a planned surgery at a
Pittsburgh children’s hospital.
Doctors there have urged Kashkooli, 33, to get her daughter in for
treatment as soon as possible.
When the travel restrictions were issued two days before her daughter’s
flight, Kashkooli was rendered nearly speechless.
“I couldn’t tell her, my little angel, that you’re considered as a
threat for this country,” she said.
When U.S. President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order
last month restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries,
including Iran, Kashkooli found herself in an impossible position.
She could not go and bring her daughter back from Iran because she might
not get back in herself, and she could not get her child to the United
States for urgent surgery.
“This little girl has a valid visa, and got caught up in a conflict with
which she has no connection,” said attorney Gordon Caplan, whose New
York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher is representing the family pro
[to top of second column]
Alma Kashkooli, (12), from Iran who has a severe medical condition,
is wheeled out of customs by her mother Farimeh Kashkooli who is
living in the United States on a student Visa while studying at
Fordham University Law School in New York, as Alma arrives at New
York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after
traveling from Istanbul Turkey February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Alma's current visa allows her to remain in the United States as
long as her mother’s student visa remains valid. The child’s visa
became useless when the restrictions went into effect, but has since
been revalidated under a court order temporarily halting enforcement
of the restrictions.
On Monday, her odyssey through U.S. customs was fraught with
With the possibility looming that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Ninth Circuit could issue a new nationwide ruling on the travel
restrictions at any moment, family attorneys on hand at the airport
were visibly nervous as they waded through a throng of cheerful law
students and legal interns.
Caplan remained nervous until he saw Alma.
“This is not over yet,” he said, looking for her over the shoulder
of a reporter towards arriving passengers.
When he spotted the child, he exhaled deeply.
Kashkooli had spent years taking Alma to experts on three continents
before a California doctor finally diagnosed the child in 2009 with
an eye condition known as congenital disorder of glycosylation,
which severely complicates vision, development and coordination.
(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Yara Bayoumy; Editing
by Sharon Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker)
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