By Steve Friess
DETROIT (Reuters) - A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that a Jordanian immigrant who has resided legally in the United States for 18 years can remain in the country, despite a criminal record, because his wife and children - all U.S. citizens - face "extraordinary hardship" without him.
Yousef Ajin, 48, a legal permanent U.S. resident with a green card, is expected to be freed within days from the holding center in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he has been locked up since being detained on Jan. 30 during a routine bi-weekly check-in at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Detroit.
Ajin, a Uber driver who lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and four children, including a severely disabled son, was born in Kuwait and legally emigrated to the United States from Jordan in 1999.
Ajin is the family's sole support. His criminal record includes two convictions - a felony and a misdemeanor.
His ICE office visit last month was his first since President Donald Trump took office, though it was not made clear in court why Ajin was taken into custody after years of living in the United States and appearing for regular residency check-ins without incident.
Supporters of Ajin and his family have pointed to his case as an apparent example of how the Trump administration's hardline stance on immigration has created upheaval and uncertainty for many foreign-born U.S. residents.
“I am so, so, so, so happy,” Betoul Ajin, his 15-year-old daughter, exclaimed outside the federal building after the hearing, over cheers from a crowd of dozens of sign-waving supporters. “I couldn’t breathe when I found out. My father is my life.”
Betoul is the twin sister of the disabled son.
Judge David Paruch ruled Ajin could remain in the country on his green card, granting him a waiver to a pending deportation order previously stayed by the government following run-ins with the law.
In 2001, Ajin used a credit card from a wallet he found while working as a hospital housekeeper to buy $500 worth of groceries, leading to a felony conviction and probationary sentence. In 2003, he was convicted in a separate case of misdemeanor shoplifting and served six months of probation.
“It was a stupid thing I did,” Azin testified on Tuesday. “If I found $1 million somewhere now, I would not even pick it up. There is no chance I’d take it.”
He has since had a clean record. His wife is a naturalized U.S. citizen and his children are American citizens by birth.
Ajin’s 15-year-old son was born with a developmental disorder that renders him unable to speak or feed himself. Ajin is the family’s sole breadwinner, though his wife has worked part-time for the past month to make ends meet while a relative helped with childcare.
A U.S. Justice Department lawyer told Paruch the government would not appeal the ruling.
Paruch, an Obama administration appointee, cited the provision of a 1996 U.S. immigration law that made Ajin eligible for a deportation waiver.
“You fit into a specific class to get a waiver, but you won’t get another chance,” the judge warned.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler)