Patient Maziar Hashemi (R), who has the cancer Myelodysplastic syndrome, and his wife Fereshteh leave after meeting with his transplant doctor at a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., March 26, 2018. Hashemi’s brother in Iran is a perfect match for a bone-marrow stem-cell transplant, but it is uncertain if his brother can travel to the U.S. from Iran for the procedure because of the travel ban restrictions. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
By Mica Rosenberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Maziar Hashemi, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in Massachusetts, has been told by doctors that his best hope for surviving a rare form of blood cancer is a bone marrow transplant.
President Donald Trump’s travel ban could make that impossible.
Bone marrow transplants require a close match between donor and recipient. A few months after his diagnosis last September, Hashemi, 60, learned that his brother in Iran, Kamiar Hashemi, was a rare 100-percent match. The only problem was Kamiar’s nationality.
The latest travel ban, issued as a presidential proclamation and implemented on December 8 after months of legal wrangling, bars most travellers to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. Although the ban allows for case-by-case waivers to be granted, including for medical need, Kamiar Hashemi has so far been denied a visa.
Attorneys who regularly deal with visa issues say the waiver process is opaque. Visa applicants aren’t allowed to apply for waivers; they are simply granted or not without explanation. U.S. officials won’t say how they make their decisions or how long they generally take.
A U.S. State Department official told Reuters that since the ban took effect, more than 375 waivers have been approved but he declined to say how many total visa applications have been filed from countries covered by the ban. He said he could not comment on the specifics of Hashemi’s case.
Kamiar Hashemi began the visa application process soon after learning he was a match for his brother. In February, the 57-year-old small business owner travelled to Armenia to be interviewed at the U.S. embassy there, since there is no embassy in Iran.
Later on the day of the interview, Kamiar’s brother back in Massachusetts checked the status of the application on the State Department’s website. A pop-up window announced in bright blue letters: “Refused.”