Attorney: Iranian infant needs visa waiver for heart surgery

- The family of a 4-month-old Iranian girl is hoping to get a waiver to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban so their daughter can have critical heart surgery in Portland.

Iranian doctors told the child’s parents weeks ago that she needed at least one urgent surgery - and perhaps several - to correct serious heart defects or she will die, said her uncle, Samad Taghizadeh, a U.S. citizen who lives in Portland. The family had an appointment in Dubai to get a tourist visa on Feb. 5, but it was abruptly canceled after Trump announced his executive order on immigration banning travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran.

The family returned to Iran with the baby, Fatemah.

“I don’t want to lose my hope, but the big problem here is time. She’s in an emergency situation and if it takes a long time, they’re going to lose her,” Taghizadeh told the AP. “They said a couple of weeks ago she had to be in surgery. They recommended three or four weeks ago to do it.”

Doctors in Iran were able to send the results of an echocardiogram and other records that show Fatemah has structural abnormalities and two holes in her heart, said Jennifer Morrissey, a Portland attorney helping with the case. Morrissey read the child’s diagnosis to the AP from medical records the immigration attorneys are using to petition for a visa waiver.

“Her heart is twisted. Her heart’s working overtime to compensate for that …and it’s causing more and more damage to her every day that she doesn’t get the surgery,” said Amber Murray, another Washington, D.C-based attorney working on the case.

The family chose Oregon Health & Science University in Portland because of its proximity to family, Taghizadeh said, but will go to anywhere to keep Fatemah alive. A lawyer for the family says they are also looking at hospitals in other countries, including Canada and Germany.

Murray told The Associated Press on Thursday she’s filing an application for a visa waiver immediately. If that is rejected, she may file an application for humanitarian parole, which would allow the baby to enter the U.S. solely for medical treatment on humanitarian grounds, even without a visa.

That application, however, requires an appointment, a doctor’s letter and proof of funds, she said.

Gov. Kate Brown mentioned Fatemah’s case on Thursday while signing an executive order that said all state agencies, and not just law enforcement, must follow the 1987 statute that essentially made Oregon the nation’s first and only sanctuary state.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is also working to get the family to the U.S., his office said.

Meanwhile, Taghizadeh can only wait for news on his niece’s visa waiver request and try to keep her mother’s spirits up from afar.

“First, they’re counting on me and second, they’re counting on the U.S. government,” he said.

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