By Steve Friess
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Reuters) - A Jordanian immigrant who resided legally in the United States for 18 years rejoiced on Wednesday at being able to return home after a month in detention that might have ended in his deportation.
"I'm happy to be back with my family," said Yousef Ajin, a 48-year-old Uber driver who was released on Tuesday from a detention center in Battle Creek, Michigan, after a federal judge ruled he could remain in the country despite a criminal record because his wife and four children - all U.S. citizens - face hardship without him.
Speaking outside his home in Ann Arbor and flanked by his family, Ajin - a Muslim who was born in Kuwait and immigrated legally to the United States from Jordan in 1999 - expressed gratitude to the judge who ruled he may remain indefinitely, saying: "I'm so happy I can stay."
Ajin holds a U.S. green card, making him a legal and permanent U.S. resident, but was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Jan. 30 during a visit to their offices in Detroit for his biweekly residency check-in, only days after President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order restricting immigration.
The testimony in court on Tuesday also focused entirely on Ajin’s two prior criminal convictions - credit card fraud in 2001 and shoplifting in 2003.
Ajin, who expressed remorse during his testimony on Tuesday, had served probation and paid fines for those incidents.
Federal immigration Judge David Paruch, an Obama appointee, ruled Tuesday Ajin be allowed to remain in the country because his expulsion would cause "extreme hardship" for his family. Ajin's 15-year-old son has severe physical disabilities that require 24-hour care, making it nearly impossible for Ajin's wife, Sihem Omar, to work.
The Department of Justice attorney handling the case waived the government's right to appeal Paruch's decision, so Ajin was released late Tuesday.
ICE had no comment as to why Ajin's long-ago convictions had become significant now, but activists were not shy in seeing his release as a rebuke of the president's hard line on immigration.
"I believe President Trump has given the green light to people in the field to be more aggressive to arrest immigrants," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Walid said the government's decision not to appeal is likely due to the fact that the region's U.S. attorney is an Obama appointee.
"More of these cases are going to happen and it'll be the luck of the draw as to who adjudicates the case,” Walid said.
(Reporting by Steve Friess in Ann Arbor, Michigan; editing by Patrick Enright, G Crosse)