Courtesy of Hani Bushra
Until last month, Emadeldin Elsayed was pursuing his life dream.
He had left Cairo and came to California to enroll in a flight school. He wanted to become a pilot. He chose the Universal Air Academy, in El Monte and started his studies there last year.
Then, last month, Elsayed made a decision that would cost him his studies in America. On February 3 he posted an article on Facebook about presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Along with the article, he posted a comment: “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.”
Hani Bushra, an attorney for Elsayed, says when he asked Elsayed why he had posted the comment on social media, he said he was "expressing distaste with what Mr. Trump said [about barring Muslims from entering the US] and that he did not mean a specific threat towards Mr. Trump."
The comment got the attention of the owner of his flight school, who contacted the FBI. The Secret Service interviewed Elsayed shortly after, but, according to Bushra, didn't make an arrest until eight days later.
"For eight days, he was allowed to be free. He was flying planes, he was participating in his class [...] and so if the government perceived him to be a threat to the United States, they would have probably taken action much sooner," Bushra says.
But according to court documents, on February 12, Secret Service agents revoked Elsayed's student visa and "suggested" he be expelled from the school.
They arrested Elsayed and he has been in detention in Orange County, California, since. Under pressure, he has agreed to leave the country voluntarily.
“We are very close to setting a date on when he is going to leave the United States. […] We are working right now with authorities to purchase a ticket at Mr. Elsayed’s own expense so he can go ahead and leave the country as soon as possible,” Bushra explains.
Bushra says it has been an exceptionally difficult few weeks for his client. Not only has he been detained and investigated by the Secret Service, but he has also lost $40,000 in tuition.
Courtesy of Hani Bushra
Elsayed will be returning to Cairo. According to Bushra, Elsayed isn't a very religious person and never paid much attention to politics. But he adds that Trump's comments about Muslims didn't sit well with him.
"In the Middle East, religious identity, regardless of whether you're Christian or Muslim, is a part of a person's identity and I think that Mr. Trump's attack on Muslims and one fell swoop of characterizing Muslims as terrorists, regardless of who they are or where they come from, offended Mr. Elsayed completely to his core," Bushra says.
Meanwhile, he adds, in Cairo, the story is being used to portray the US in a negative light.
“They have used this as a justification to say that even in the United States where you have a country that supposedly free speech is protected and you also have human rights, the country would put its security above its laws and above its principles," says Bushra.
Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Monday that officials are arranging Elsayed’s repatriation and that he would be escorted by immigration agents on his flight back to Egypt.