SANTA ANA, Calif. (Sept. 27, 2017) — The U.S. Department of Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) on Sept. 27 granted humanitarian parole to leukemia patient Helen Huynh, a resident of Orange County in Southern California.
“We are so relieved by today’s decision and commend USCIS for doing the right thing, the humane thing, in granting humanitarian parole,” said Sylvia Kim, Orange County regional director for Advancing Justice. “We hope it is in time to save Helen Huynh’s life, which has been hanging in the balance for months.”
Earlier this year, Helen was diagnosed unexpectedly with acute myeloid leukemia and needed a stem cell transplant from as close a genetic match as possible. While a minimum 70 percent match is required to proceed with a transplant, Helen’s sister in Vietnam, Thuy Nguyen, turned out to be a rare 100 percent match for Helen.
Thuy’s perfect match for Helen is also remarkable in that rate of matches for Asian patients (72 percent) is significantly lower than for white patients (80 to 90 percent). Unfortunately, in the many months following Helen’s leukemia diagnosis, her sister Thuy was unable to secure a visitor visa to enter the United States in order to provide the life-saving stem cell transplant. Thuy applied for and was rejected multiple times for a visitor’s visa. The family then filed an application with USCIS for humanitarian parole, a last-ditch effort to bring Thuy from Vietnam.
“My family is so relieved that my aunt Thuy will now be able to enter the United States. This is half the battle — now we can finally focus on fighting the cancer,” said Ai-Van Murray, one of Helen Huynh’s daughters. “We are grateful to all who have helped us these past months including U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), U.S. Rep’s Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and U.S. Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46). But we have also heard from so many families who have faced similar hurdles in the visa process and we hope our family’s story will help shed light on much needed changes for bi-national families facing grave illness and death.”
While not involved in the legal applications, Advancing Justice-LA and Advancing Justice-Orange County have supported the family’s efforts for humanitarian parole, launching an online sign-on letter last week asking USCIS to help save Helen Huynh’s life. As of today, over 90 organizations and more than 1100 individuals had signed on in support of Helen Huynh and her sister Thuy Nguyen.
“We are thrilled for Helen Huynh and her family,” said Karin Wang, vice-president of programs and communications for Advancing Justice-LA. “But as a civil rights organization, we are extremely concerned that this current administration’s hostility to all visitors and immigrants extends far beyond official policies and Presidential executive orders and has reached heartless extremes.”
As her family moves forward in their fight to save Helen, Advancing Justice-LA joins groups like Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (www.a3mhope.org) in encouraging Asian Americans and other people of color to join the national bone marrow registry, as matches are most likely with donors of similar backgrounds. “Helen is very fortunate to have found a perfect match in her sister,” said Susan Choi, director of Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches. “But her story is also an important reminder to participate in the national bone marrow registry. Seventy percent of patients searching for a marrow donor must rely on the kindness and generosity of strangers to donate, and nationally, more than 5,000 patients of color are searching for a marrow donor match at any given time. You could be a match for someone like Helen.”