Egyptian Flight Student Agrees to Leave Country Over Donald Trump Facebook Post

A deportation hearing was conducted Friday in the case of 23-year-old Emadeldin Elsayed, who was enrolled at a Southern California flight school when he posted a threatening message directed at the Republican presidential front-runner

An Egyptian flight student who was arrested after posting threatening comments about Donald Trump on his Facebook page agreed Friday to leave the country by July.

A deportation hearing was conducted Friday in the case of 23-year-old Emadeldin Elsayed, who was enrolled at a Southern California flight school when he posted a threatening message directed at the Republican presidential front-runner.

Elsayed was angered by Trump's statements about blocking Muslims from visiting the United States and posted an article about it Feb. 3 on Facebook.

The post said he was willing to kill Trump and the world would thank him. The following day, Secret Service agents questioned him and searched his residence and computer devices, according to the student's attorney, Hani Bushra.

At Friday's hearing, immigration authorities agreed to let Elsayed return to Egypt voluntarily instead of deporting him, so long as he departs by July 5. Elsayed, who is being held at a jail in Southern California, appeared at a hearing in immigration court in Los Angeles shackled and wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit.

Elsayed will be escorted by authorities during the departure process.

"He has to be escorted from jail directly to New York, where he will take the Egypt Air flight to Cairo," his attorney said in a statement. "We are now trying to work on expediting this process as fast as possible."

Federal prosecutors have not charged him with a crime, but his visa was revoked.

"He's just a student who said something foolish, and it's being taken way out of proportion," Bushra said earlier this week. "To look at the other side, it's not unreasonable for the authorities to be concerned about a post like this, but once it's been investigated and there's no reason to be worried about it or grounds for criminal charges then I don't think it's fair to pressure a school owner to terminate him and use that as an excuse."

Bushra told Immigration Judge Kevin Riley that he may seek another bond hearing for the aspiring pilot from Cairo because he believes Elsayed's detention is illegal.

Bushra said after the hearing that he understands why the Feb. 3 Facebook post led to his client being investigated. But in the absence of criminal charges, Elsayed should be freed, the attorney said.

"He's being detained, I think, primarily because he's a Muslim and he's a Middle Easterner," Bushra said, adding that social media sites are teeming with similar comments. "This kid is going to become a poster boy for hating America."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials issued the following statement about Elsayed's case: "Mr. Elsayed was taken into custody Feb. 12 by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ... for allegedly violating the terms of his admission to the United States. Mr. Elsayed remains in ICE custody pending the outcome of immigration proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review."

Bushra said the owner of Universal Air Academy in El Monte expelled his client, giving immigration officials the authority to kick Elsayed out of the country as that was the basis for his visa. The academy's owner, Alex Khatib, has said he would take Elsayed back as a student if possible.

Bushra argued that many other people on social media have made worse statements about candidates and do not appear to be facing expulsion from the country. He said it appears his client's religious and ethnicity are driving the push to expel Elsayed. The attorney acknowledged that some of the 9/11 attackers were enrolled in flight school, which may also be a factor.

Bushra argued his client has already paid more than $40,000 in tuition, but Elsayed was still declared a danger to the community by immigration officials.

Elsayed is from Cairo, but he said he spent much of his life in Saudi Arabia, where his father worked as a civil engineer. He came to the United States for the first time last September to attend Universal Air Academy with the hope of returning to Egypt and getting a job at an airline, he said.

He said he'd like to continue his studies in the United States. If not, he will seek a refund of some of the $65,000 he has spent on his education and use it to study elsewhere.

Trump is leading the Republican presidential contenders and has used especially tough talk on immigration to win over many voters. He has vowed to build a wall along the entire Mexican border and has called for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country.

The State Department and Secret Service declined to discuss the case. A Trump campaign spokeswoman also declined to comment.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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