Cheers of joy and relief erupted outside a Detroit immigration courtroom Tuesday, when a judge granted a waiver sparing an Ann Arbor man from deportation.
Yousef Ajin is a Jordanian national, and has been a legal permanent U.S. resident since 1999. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and four U.S.-born children
Ajin also has a criminal record: for stealing a wallet left in a University of Michigan Hospital room in 2001, when he worked there as a custodian; and for shoplifting from a Meijer in 2003. Both times, Ajin pleaded guilty, was put on probation, and paid restitution and fines.
In 2011, Ajin also missed a scheduled court hearing, apparently because he was out of the country. The government issued an order for his removal at that time, but later agreed to set that aside and allowed Ajin to remain in the country, according to court testimony.
So Ajin’s family says they were all blindsided when he was arrested and jailed after a routine immigration check-in last month. He’s been held at the Calhoun County jail in Battle Creek ever since.
Since news of his potential deportation became public, many in the Ann Arbor schools and wider community have rallied support for the Ajin family. Dozens of supporters came to Detroit’s McNamara federal building to rally while the deportation hearing went on inside.
Michelle Webster-Hein was one of them. She worked in a special needs classroom with Ajin’s severely disabled son.
“I know what a strong bond he has with his father, and the idea of his father being separated from him is heartbreaking to me,” said Webster-Hein.
Brit Satchwell, a social studies teacher at Ann Arbor’s Tappan Middle School, came to support his student, the youngest of Ajin’s three daughters.
Satchwell said the family has already been “affected in the worst possible way,” and feared for the future of all Ajin’s children if he was deported.
“If you take the breadwinner out of the family, and force the adolescent kids to take care of the [other] children, you’ve got a bad situation. And I see it every day,” Satchwell said.
The family’s son requires “constant care,” Satchwell said. “And now mom will be forced to work. I hear she’s working 12 hours right now. So it’s up to the girls. And they’re not going to be able to make up their childhood, they have to be adults all of a sudden.”
Much of the hearing testimony focused on Ajin’s son, a non-verbal 15-year-old who still wears diapers and requires constant supervision.
When Judge David Paruch asked Ajin, present by tele-conference from jail, why he should be allowed to remain in the country, Ajin replied simply: “For my family.”
In the end, Paruch accepted that argument, granting Ajin a waiver from deportation because “your family would suffer extreme hardship” otherwise. Paruch also noted that Ajin has worked consistently since arriving in the U.S., and has stayed out of legal trouble since 2003.
However, Paruch warned Ajin that such waivers are “not given lightly,” and that “you don’t want to test this again. [But] I’m reasonably confident you won’t do something stupid now.”
“If I found $1 million in the street, I wouldn’t pick it up after being locked down for a month,” Ajin said.
The government declined to request an appeal of Paruch’s ruling, meaning that Ajin will return to having permanent resident status. His family says he is just shy of getting his U.S. citizenship.
Ajin was ordered released from detention as soon as possible. His attorney, Christopher Vreeland, declined comment after the hearing, saying he would let Ajin speak for himself once he’s released.
Vreeland also declined to speculate on why Ajin was unexpectedly taken into custody last month. The government did not make that clear in court testimony, focusing almost solely on his criminal history.