Updated on 03-04-2016 by Saqib Shah: Emad Elsayed, the Egyptian student facing deportation from the U.S. for an alleged Facebook threat against Donald Trump, has been told he can voluntarily leave the country. The original story has been updated to reflect the recent news.
An Egyptian student who had been facing deportation from the U.S. due to the nature of a Facebook comment he made about Donald Trump, is allowed to leave the country voluntarily. The 23-year-old, Emad Elsayed, reportedly took to the social network to write a post in which he claimed that by killing Republican presidential candidate Trump he would be doing the world a favor.
On March 4, the judge presiding over Elsayed’s hearing granted the voluntary departure to return to his home country. Elsayed will remain in custody and has 120 days to leave the U.S. He will be escorted by officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement upon his departure, an agency spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times.
Elsayed’s attorney, Hani Bushra, requested the judge grant his client bond, which was rejected. Bushra claims that Elsayed was faced with no option but to leave voluntarily and return to his family in Cairo.
A court filing that further clarifies Elsayed’s online statement claims that he posted a link to an article on February 3, following Trump’s comments about banning Muslims from the U.S. Along with the link, Elsayed stated that he was willing to face a life sentence in prison for killing Trump because he would be doing the world a favor. Elsayed’s attorney claims that the Facebook status was written in jest, and that social media is littered with similar posts.
The next day, U.S. Secret Service agents turned up at the Southern California flight school where Elsayed was training to become a pilot, according to his attorney Hani Bushra. The agents reportedly questioned Elsayed about the post after being notified of his social media activity by the academy’s owner.
Matters got increasingly serious when, according to Bushra, the owner of the flight school was ordered to terminate his support for Elsayed’s visa. “The U.S. attorney declined to charge him criminally, so they chose to pursue immigration action,” Bushra told the Los Angeles Times. Losing the support of an educational institution means an international student can be deported from the country.
Elsayed was taken into custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A spokesperson confirmed that Elsayed is being held in an Orange County jail for violating the terms of his admission to the country.
Bushra claims that although the owner of the flight academy has now signed a statement claiming he is willing to reinstate Elsayed, the government refuses to budge. Law enforcement officials claim that Elsayed’s Facebook post about Trump qualifies him as a danger to society. Elsayed also allegedly refused to withdraw the statement in question when interviewed by a Secret Service agent.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, a retired special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, Claude Arnold, said, “You can’t make a threat against a major presidential candidate, especially when you are a guest in this country. These things get investigated and taken seriously regardless of a person’s nationality or religious background.”
Bushra added that Elsayed “regrets” what he did, and will regret it “for a long, long time.”
The case could prove a precedent and will, at the very least, act as a warning sign for social media users who have posted similar comments, whether or not intended as a joke. Since Trump’s Super Tuesday triumph a wave of threatening posts regarding the Republican candidate have appeared on Twitter. Although violent threats violate the platform’s terms of service, many of the tweets that call for Trump’s assassination have seemingly gone unnoticed.