Sulaiman Dihyem's first son was born — and died — an American citizen in a foreign land.
The proud dad was in Brooklyn last month when his wife delivered their doomed child in war-torn Yemen, and he blames the Trump administration for keeping his pregnant spouse and unborn son from joining him in the U.S.
"Especially Trump," he said.
As he closed up shop at his downtown Brooklyn 99-cent store, Dihyem told the Daily News about the long-distance call with the heartbreaking news about his newborn boy.
"It was horrible," he recounted "That's my first baby. And I was trying to make a baby for like four years. And when it comes ..."
He fell momentarily silent before insisting the tragedy was preventable. Three times since April 2017, his applications to bring Yemeni spouse Hanan Ali Farhan Al-Ward to the U.S. were unsuccessful.
"All the Trump thinking — it just started slowing (things) down, denying people," he said. "It's getting worse and worse."
Dihyem filed a lawsuit April 9 in Brooklyn Federal Court against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asking for a ruling on his application to reunite with his ailing, anguished wife in his Bushwick apartment.
The lawsuit charges that the way authorities handle petitions for American citizens looking to bring Yemeni relatives into the U.S. is unconstitutional.
Applications from Muslim-majority countries in general are treated differently, the lawsuit charges.
Al-Ward went into labor last month in Yemen, where gunfire earlier in the day made it too dicey to travel through the city streets of Sana'a to a hospital.
She instead remained inside her sixth-floor apartment, where three bullets had whizzed through the living room window two months earlier.
A local midwife arrived, willing to help but minus the necessary medical equipment. When the almost-10-pound boy was delivered, the newborn had no heartbeat.
By law, a child born outside the country becomes an American citizen at birth, providing the parent with U.S. citizenship resided in the country for five years prior to the birth.
Dihyem spoke with The News one day after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality of the Trump administration's travel ban.
Yemen is one of several Muslim-majority countries subject to the rule.
The story of Dihyem and Al-Ward, both 25, shows the sea-change in policy toward granting visas and U.S. entry, explained Dihyem's attorney, Julie Goldberg.
While Goldberg acknowledges issues with Yemeni immigration cases are nothing new, she insists "there's no way under the Obama administration (that Dihyem's) case would've been denied."
The Trump administration "put (in) all this policy … that intentionally delayed these cases," she said.
Dihyem was born in Yonkers, where he lived his first six or seven years. His family moved to Yemen, where he and Al-Ward were neighbors and close friends.
Dihyem returned to New York in 2010, but stayed in touch with Al-Ward. They became engaged in 2011 and married in May 2013.
Dihyem gave immigration officials records including a marriage contract, marriage registration, wedding invitation, photos, declarations from friends and family, and records of money he sent to Al-Ward.
Dihyem also underwent an interview — which the feds said showed "inconsistencies" with his written statements.
Yet Goldberg insists birth certificates, marriage documents, pictures and a check were enough when it came to relatives coming from other countries.
At a court conference earlier this month, a government lawyer noted immigration officials are flooded with about 1 million annual applications from people like Dihyem.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Marutollo said the feds are under no obligation to expedite review and claimed two of Dihyem's three requests weren't done properly.
Judge Brian Cogan said he recognized "what a horrible situation the plaintiffs are in."
According to transcripts, Cogan later said "there may or may not be a very good case for saying that there is anti-Muslim discrimination going on."
Cogan said he couldn't answer that weighty question right there and then. But he quickly wants depositions and evidence production on application processing speeds.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it couldn't discuss pending litigation. The Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.
But in the past two weeks, Goldberg said, newborns with American citizenship through a parent died in Yemen and Djibouti while paperwork languished.
Dihyem speaks to his wife every day. She's awaiting surgery for a labor-related infection. He wishes she could just be here.
"I don't know when she's coming, if she's coming," he said.
With Christina Carrega
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