A teenager at Children’s Memorial Hermann in US who has not seen her parents in 13 years has a heartbreaking last wish to be reunited with her family in Pakistan.
“I need them more than anything right now, and I’m in really serious condition,” Qirat Chappra pleaded.
The 18-year-old who has spent most of her life in the hospital is a US citizen but her parents live in Pakistan. Her doctors say she has severe immunodeficiency which has led to a host of other complications.
Chappra says she has lost count of the many times her parents have applied for a visa. Her family has also sent letters from the teenager’s doctors to the US State Department but to no avail. According to Houston Public Media, in the letters one doctor estimated that she only has a month or two to live. Chappra’s friends and family have started a petition on the White House website to try and get her parents an emergency visa.
“Even however critical I am, they keep denying because they act like they don’t care,” Chappra said.
Chappra’s aunt, Neelam Ghanchi, who lives in south Houston, has been helping the family with their visa application. “Everybody’s asking me and my family why they denied and why they are not (coming) here, but we don’t know because they never said any particular explanation about the denial letter,” Ghanchi said.
Speaking over Skype, the teenager’s father Idrees Chappra said, “I think immigration officials are suspicious about our daughter being born in the US and they we were just trying to get her citizenship by birthright.”
The 18-year-old’s father further said that his other two children were both born in Pakistan and the family had never tried to settle in the US. “My daughter is too sick to travel, and all we want is to see her one last time.”
Chappra’s mother Naila had visited the US on a visitor’s visa while she had been six or seven months pregnant. She had then begun to have complications with the baby so doctors advised her not to travel until the birth of the baby. So Chappra was born in the US and had afterwards returned to Pakistan where she lived for 5 years before developing more serious health complications. Her parents sent her back to the US for treatment, thinking it would be temporary. However, she has remained in the country ever since due to the seriousness of her condition.
According to experts, Chappra’s situation is fairly common. “There are a number of stories of parents who have missed their child’s graduation, or they’re unable to come to a wedding. They’re unable to come to a funeral. We simply hear about these all the time,” said Emran El Badawi, director of the Arab Studies programme at the University of Houston.
“Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it’s become a lot harder to get a visa from many Muslim countries because of national security concerns. I hope officials would think about Chappra’s story from a humanitarian standpoint. A young girl is dying in a hospital room, and we’re standing in the way of her parents coming to see her in her final days,” he added.
However, there might be one option still open for Chappra’s parents: humanitarian parole. “Basically what it does is allow for people to come into the country on an emergency basis if there is some sort of illness either in the family, or if there is some sort of pressing humanitarian reason. It can also be used if there is a significant public benefit,” Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston Law Center explained.
According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, they get about 1,200 humanitarian parole applications a year, and about 25 per cent of those have been approved.
However, the girl’s aunt Ghanchi informed that the family applied for humanitarian parole in 2013 but they were denied. The family is willing to go through that process again.
Ghanchi did receive some good news from her congressman, John Culberson who has promised to try to help them out. “This is a time sensitive humanitarian emergency and I will do everything I can to help this young lady and her family,” Culberson said in an email statement.
This article originally appeared on Houston Public Media