State Sen. Gounardes helps Bay Ridge man reunite with mother

July 02, 2019

Originally published in News 12 Brooklyn on July 02, 2019.

Shamsan Al Lahabi and her grandson at her new home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

BAY RIDGE -

A Bay Ridge business owner who had given up hope of ever seeing his mother again had his wish granted thanks in part to state Sen. Andrew Gounardes.

The last time Shamsan Al Lahabi saw his mother who lived in Yemen was six years ago, where there has been an ongoing civil war.

In 2014 he started the visa process, but then hit a roadblock in 2017 when the travel ban was implemented by the Trump administration, preventing people from seven Muslim countries from getting a visa.

Al Lahabi owns a grocery store on Fifth Avenue, right next to Gounardes' office. After seeing how he interacted with constituents and staff, he decided to ask for help.

Two months later, Gounardes secured the waiver for Al Lahabi's mom, a rare feat.

"I don't even know how it happened," says Gounardes. "I mean so few of these waivers get approved nationwide, I think about 5 or 6% get approved across the country."

Mahliah Al Lahabi expressed gratitude for his efforts, and excitement to get to spend the holidays with family.

"Witnessing the war going through all of this hardship for the past years, all of it was worth it when I got to see my son and meet my grandsons for the first time," says Mahliah Al Lahabi.