A 23-year-old Egyptian studying to be a pilot in Southern California will be escorted back to his home country by immigration agents after he posted on Facebook that he'd be willing to kill Donald Trump.
Emadeldin Elsayed will remain in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody as the government makes arrangements for his departure, agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice told BuzzFeed News. A judge denied his request to be released on bond while he awaits his departure at a date that officials would not confirm.
"For security reasons, we don't provide advance information about the anticipated timing of such returns and will only confirm such actions after they've been successfully completed," Kice said.
It's a move that has left Elsayed and his attorney dumbfounded. Facing formal deportation proceedings, Elsayed agreed to leave the U.S. voluntarily, his attorney, Hani Bushra, said. But instead of getting on the next flight to Egypt, he's waiting in a jail cell while the U.S. arranges an escort.
"It's very, very rarely done, unless you're dealing with someone who's a super terrorist or a fugitive," Bushra told BuzzFeed News.
In February, Elsayed posted an article on Facebook about a Trump statement on immigration. Angry about previous comments Trump had made about Muslims, Elsayed wrote that he'd be willing to kill the Republican presidential frontrunner.
"I literally don’t mind taking a lifetime sentence in jail for killing this guy, I would actually be doing the whole world a favor," Elsayed wrote, according to his attorney.
"He regrets it," Bushra told BuzzFeed News. "There was no intention at all to do any harm to Mr. Trump...I honestly believe the government also believes that."
Elsayed described it as a "stupid post" to the Associated Press in an interview from jail.
"You can find thousands of these every hour on Facebook and the media," he said.
He was interviewed by Secret Service agents on Feb. 4, Bushra said. Eight days later, they returned to tell him that while he would not be charged with a crime, his visa to attend flight school had been revoked.
Elsayed had been continuing to fly planes as part of his training, something his attorney doubts would have been allowed if he were believed to be an actual threat.
But the owner of the flight school, Alex Khatib, told the AP that at the request of U.S. officials, he terminated paperwork that granted Elsayed legal status as an international student. Had the government allowed Elsayed to stay in the U.S., Khatib said he would have re-enrolled him.
"He is honestly a good student," Khatib told the AP. "He seemed to be a good guy."
For now, Elsayed is just trying to survive, his attorney said. He has never been in jail before, and the experience has been terrifying.
"His future is pretty much ruined," Bushra said.
If the government believed Elsayed had committed a crime, they should have charged him with one, Bushra added, not pressured him with challenges to his immigration status.
"The use of the immigration system as a punitive measure is kind of disturbing," he said. "But it's a new trend."
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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