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Community unites for sick child

With help from Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr., Omar Audi – a 10-year-old boy with a rare disease treatable only in the United States – will be able to stay with his family for two more years after courts originally ruled for his parents to be deported to Lebanon on Christmas Day.

Omar was diagnosed with angiodema (HAE) – a life-threatening disease that causes swelling inside and outside of the body – while on a trip to New York in 2007; an ailment treatable with an experimental medication not found in Lebanon. His parents, Dania and Rawi Audi, who had expired visas, were not granted asylum in the United States and were presented with a tough choice – leave their son in the U.S. where he could get treatment or bring their son with them to Lebanon where he would almost certainly not survive. It was at this point that Dania visited Vallone’s office for help.

“He was so excited to help me,” Dania told The Courier. “He said he would try his best and he did. We are so excited.”

Vallone drafted a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and began advocating on their behalf. He sought the services of local immigration advocate Anthony Meloni, worked with P.S. 234 in Astoria who held a fundraiser for certain legal fees and reached out to the field office director of the U.S. Immigration Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations who assured the councilmember that they would not take action against the Audi’s until their case was completely reviewed.

“He was a man of his word,” said Vallone. “[Immigration services] agreed that what the court had decided was harsh and gave them a two-year stay where they will be legal residents.”

For the Audi family, they are grateful that the community has rallied around them during their most turbulent time.

“Everybody worked together. Life has really changed now,” said Dania.

“He is such a loveable little kid,” said Vallone. “It’s a testament to the Astoria community.”

In two years, they will again be able to petition for relief if the circumstance remains the same.

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