Alec Redding

Detained, but not Deported: A Family’s Final Chance to Remain Undivided

February 24, 2017

Yousef Ajin thought that this phone call was like all the others—the daily instances of harassment, phishing and threats he had been receiving for a few years now. Having brought the issue to the police multiple times in the past and receiving little assistance, he had developed his own tactics for dealing with the calls.

Yousef thought that this phone call was like all the others—so he responded as he would have to all the others. He cracked some jokes, poked a little fun and then eventually, yelled at the unidentified caller before hanging up. But Yousef, unaware of this at the time, was speaking to an immigration official.

So about a week later when Yousef, a Muslim, Kuwait-born Jordanian immigrant drove up to Detroit for his bi-weekly proof of residency, he thought it would be like all the others—a routine stop in which he would show his driver’s license, exchange a few words with an officer and then be on his way home to his wife and four children in Ann Arbor, all of whom are U.S. citizens. But this check-in was not like all the others—because from this one, Yousef Ajin didn’t come home.

Yousef’s check-ins are at 9:00 a.m. every other Monday, but it wasn’t until about noon on Jan. 30 that Ms. Omar, Yousef’s wife of 18 years, received a phone call.

When the officer called me, he said ‘You don’t have to get him a lawyer or anything, he will be okay. They just want to teach him a lesson,” Ms. Omar said. She quickly discovered this wasn’t the case, as Yousef was transferred to the Calhoun County Jail nearly 80 miles from Ann Arbor, where he will stay until his deportation hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 1:00 p.m. in the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit.

Without Yousef around the house, who worked all night on the weekends and throughout most of the week in order to provide for the family, the Ajin family has had to make some major adjustments. “It’s hard, it’s so hard. I went back to work after 18 years because he was the only source of income,” Ms. Omar said. “On the weekends I have to work double shifts, like from nine to nine. It’s too much, but we have to make it.”

For their three daughters, Yara, Betoul and Mariam, this change means they are now the primary caretakers for Betoul’s 15-year-old twin brother Bader, who suffers from severe developmental disabilities.

“Since I was born my mom has never worked,” said Betoul, a sophomore at Community High School. “So it’s new. It’s really, really new.”

Shortly after Ms. Omar received the call from immigration on Jan. 30, Betoul noticed something was wrong when her father wouldn’t answer a call. “He gets mad when people don’t pick up the phone, so he always picks up his.”

Photographs by Alec Redding “[Bader] likes to play on his piano and listen to music. He likes country music and to make his own. He’ll just stomp around.”

 

A cousin picked Betoul up from school where she was working on tech for Community Ensemble Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” She hesitantly informed Betoul of her father’s situation. “She told me ‘you can cry, you can cry,’” Betoul said. “I didn’t want to, but I ended up crying anyway.”

The family has only seen Yousef once since he was detained, at his bond hearing and through a screen. “I looked at my dad sitting, and I couldn’t do anything about it, in an orange jumpsuit,” Betoul said. “It was the worst feeling.”

The daily calls, however, have been a strong connection between Yousef and his kids, as he tries to stay updated on their lives at home and in school. He keeps the conversation light-hearted, according to his oldest daughter Yara, a junior at Pioneer High School. “Every Friday he used to take us to the gas station after school, so last Friday he asked us ‘What do you guys want from the gas station?’”

The kids are aware that, in many ways, the cheer is a facade. “He’s mad. Every time he calls us he tries to be happy, but I know he’s mad,” Betoul said. “He has right to be. We all do.”

Despite the closeness of the family, Yousef won’t allow his kids to come and visit. “He doesn’t want us to see him like that. He wants to be strong, he wants to be the dad of the house,” Betoul said. “Seeing him like that, that’s at his weakest point.“

The intricacies of immigration law are complex and confusing; the way that they are enforced—even more so. But the importance of preserving the presence of a father for these four children, a financial provider for a family of six and a loved one to so many in this community is straightforward. It is human.

The family knows if there was ever an opportunity to keep Yousef at home, that moment is Tuesday, 1 p.m. at the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit. When the stakes are at their highest, Ms. Omar hopes the community will provide the much needed support to match.

“A big community around here is going to go [to the hearing]. It means a lot to us. They have been very supportive and I’m thankful to everybody,” Ms. Omar said. “Because Tuesday will decide our future.”

 

If you would like to support the Ajin family, Yousef’s hearing will be at the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building, 477 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, MI, 48226, at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28. This is not a protest, but rather an expression of support towards the Ajin family. If you are able to drive other people, or need a ride in order to attend, please fill out this google form.

 

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42 Comments

42 Responses to “Detained, but not Deported: A Family’s Final Chance to Remain Undivided”

  1. Bilal Saeed on February 24th, 2017 12:45 pm

    Is there any platform in which we can donate to the family?

  2. adviser on February 24th, 2017 5:04 pm

    Checks can be written to the Ajin Family and sent to the attention of Quinn Strassel at Community High, 401 N. Division St. Ann Arbor 48104.

  3. Hue Huynh on February 24th, 2017 2:05 pm

    What was the reason for Yousef Ajin’s arrest? Has he or his advocates contacted Debbie Dingell’s office in Ypsilanti? That is what she is there for. I would also contact the ACLU. That is what they do.

  4. adviser on February 24th, 2017 5:06 pm

    The reason for Ajin’s detainment is unknown. Thanks for the advice. We will share it.

  5. Kathleen Titus on February 24th, 2017 3:08 pm

    I am very concerned about the plight of the Muslim immigrant, Yousef Ajin, after reading an article about him by Joel Appel-Kraut. I trust this source because it was supplied to me from the Interfaith Center of Peace and Justice in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The ICPJ is a well-respected organization that works with the Quakers in Ann Arbor.

    Yousef Ajin was apparently suddenly put in a detention center and was unaware that anyone thought he had committed a serious offense. At a minimum, he had a right to counsel from an attorney with reference to whatever the charges were. The article I read cites no past criminal history for Yousef Ajin. If he was suddenly put in a detention center with no warning and no opportunity for legal counsel, that would not have been just or fair and would not have followed proper legal procedure. Even more alarming, it might have been a constitutional and/or a human rights violation.

    Our country has a very important responsibility to treat its immigrants fairly and humanely.

  6. Kim on February 24th, 2017 3:37 pm

    This is not what our country is about. I will be there to support the Ajin family.

  7. nick on February 24th, 2017 7:11 pm

    Is Yousef here legally? An expired VISA? Green Card? Nope – Sounds like he has been living here illegally for 18 years, otherwise you would have mentioned his legal status to remain in the USA. Somehow all these facts have been left out of this very biased article. Illegal is breaking the law.

  8. Kathryn James on February 24th, 2017 9:13 pm

    So what happened to the idea of only deporting the criminals. Why are they picking on kaw abiding family members. Especially since he was trying to works towards citizenship. This country has turned into a monstrous machine that breaks my heart. God help us all

  9. Dan Cunningham on February 24th, 2017 9:28 pm

    I don’t understand the “divided” spin. His family doesn’t plan on going with their father if he gets deported? I can’t imagine choosing to be apart like that.

  10. Brenda Thom on February 27th, 2017 12:09 pm

    They would have to have the money to pay for plane tickets! And leave everything they have worked for here behind.

  11. Katie McNulty on February 27th, 2017 9:52 pm

    His family members are all Americans. Its not like they are moving from Detroit to Chicago.

  12. Manuela Blankinship on February 28th, 2017 8:25 am

    Dan, if Mr. Ajin gets deported, the family will be, in fact, divided. The article does not claim that they will be divided forever or that his wife and children would not join him in Jordan eventually.

    But the practical implications of an international move would mean that the family would be divided until they could move. The wife and children are U.S. citizens. Unless they hold dual citizenship with the country Mr. Ajif would be deported to (supposedly Jordan), they would have to go through immigration proceedings with that country – which could take months.

    It also sounds like the family is not swimming in money. The flight tickets alone might cost more than they can afford (a round trip to Europe cost my three person family $4500 last summer!).

    Then you have to consider that their son is disabled. For his sake, they might decide for his wife and children to remain in the U.S. for now so that he can remain in his school. I know a family that specifically moved to the Ann Arbor school district because their son has special needs that could not be served in other school districts.

    We can also not just assume that their kids speak Arabic fluently. I live in Dearborn and many kids whose parents speak Arabic don’t speak much Arabic themselves – or read and write it even less fluently if at all. So, the kids would then have to leave their home country, everything and everybody they know, their schools, their home to live in a country where they might not even speak the language to be reunited with their father. Also, since he is the only breadwinner (until recently), they would have to wait until he is established in the new country, has found a job, and has saved enough money to finance his family’s move.

    So, yes, the family would definitely be divided until all of these details are taken care of.

  13. Susan Cybulski on February 25th, 2017 7:40 am

    My father is a survivor of the Holocaust. The story of the demise of my grandparents started the same way this story begins. My grandfather was taken suddenly from his family and detained for months in a camp outside Paris, France, before he was deported to Auschwitz and murdered. Soon after, the same thing happened to my grandmother. Their only ‘crime’ was being Jewish.

    My father was just a young child when he and his sister became orphans. It is a miracle that they survived, a miracle that I am even here to tell this story.

    The fact that my father’s story is being repeated right here in my home town of Ann Arbor fills me with horror and dread. We must support the family of Mr. Ajin and and other families like his who are innocent victims of the unjust policies of the Trump administration. The very soul of our country is at stake.

    Thank you to Joel Appel-Kraut for sharing this story.

  14. Michal on February 25th, 2017 11:05 pm

    Amen! Good job, Susan!

  15. Pat Housekeeper on February 26th, 2017 12:02 pm

    What a history you have shared, this is all so unbelievable. I am writing as I can’t be there.

  16. Jeff Gaynor on February 25th, 2017 8:54 am

    I will be at the hearing in Detroit on Tuesday, lending what support I can as one member of the Ann Arbor Board of Education. Thank you Joel, and Quinn, and all the students, teachers, staff and Ann Arbor Pubic School Community.

  17. Jennifer Long on February 25th, 2017 2:15 pm

    I know my wonderful Ann Arbor must be gone. This would never never never have happened in the 70’s, 80’s or even 90’s. Where is the population of kind, open minded people? Sad. Middle Earth and the soul of Ann Arbor. Gone. Still love yah, but trust you no more.

  18. Christine Lux on February 26th, 2017 1:04 am

    Jennifer, while Yousef is an Arm Arborite, this is not happening *in* Ann Arbor, but in Detroit at the U.S Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency. This is at the federal level.

  19. Robert Honeyman on February 26th, 2017 12:24 pm

    He was arrested in Detroit, not A2.

  20. L. Jericho on February 26th, 2017 11:46 pm

    Seriously. If this can happen in Ann Arbor????. I always thought we were this beautiful bubble of compassionate, humanitarian, intelligent, diverse and the open minded people. Lately I’ve seen things start to change. It’s hear wrenching, but I know now is not the time to sit back and be idle while this country turns into a nationalistic, fascist, war mongering place. We cannot continue to let history repeat itself, though I dare to say we are well on our way.

  21. Connie McKinney on February 28th, 2017 1:00 pm

    Reading the article i must point out that the arrest happened at the Detroit office. The fact that it happened at all and is continually happening across the United States is criminal! This family man found a way of combating multiple phone calls of abusive racist slandering attacks against his person by using humor to Deflect the negativity and ll. Will NOw he is being taught a lesson?!?! This is inhuman and I support this man and his family. I pray for his safety and healthy return to his family in Ann Arbor. Peace and Love ❤️ ps who knew this whole legal illegal immigration thing was so complex….just saying there must be a lot of elected governmental officials who’s overpaid over cared for pampered jobs it is to FIX The LEGAL kinks in this system without criminal actions taken against our community citizens!!!!! DO THE WORK or YOUR FIRED! I’m more than tired of the working class scraping by while the rich keeps getting richer in their cushion decision making thrones of power and limitless greed. This repeated history is so old I can’t get the wretched smells of moldy ideals of why America was founded in the first place out of my final two cents worth of “let them eat cake” this shit has got to change and if we need a fancy prison for political and bankers who rob us if our money our dignity our religions our community ourselves then so be it. Make them a golden cage but the walls and barriers must not be built on the LAND of The BRave HOME of the FREE! Cmm

  22. dump the chump on February 26th, 2017 5:11 am

    fishy, why was he required to prove residence bi-weekly in the first place?

  23. Kate Burns on February 27th, 2017 10:30 am

    Yousef was participating in a program to fast-track his citizenship, which included these bi-weekly check-ins among other things.

  24. Kristina Newby on February 27th, 2017 2:27 pm

    Then why would the courts detain him? It makes no sense even from a conservative perspective.

  25. William Frakes on February 27th, 2017 8:17 pm

    That’s not a thing any naturalized citizen I know has ever heard of. Why did he need a fast-track program after being in the country almost two decades? Still sounds fishy.

  26. John D on February 28th, 2017 11:46 am

    “Fast-track his citizenship”? I don’t quite understand that. I read he has been in the U.S. for 18 years. Has he been “illegal” throughout that time?

  27. Jamie Hodges on February 26th, 2017 8:28 am

    The new administration has chaged our world as we know it. It is up to everyday human being with a sense of right to vote and and write their congress at the state and federal level. Let us all hope we can change with the next election!

  28. Michele on February 26th, 2017 9:54 am

    This isn’t Ann Arbor — Ann Arbor is rallying around this family! It’s the immigration service in Detroit that detained him.

  29. Martha on February 26th, 2017 1:44 pm

    I hear you regarding the change of open minded support that once defined the atmosphere of Ann Arbor. I was born and raised here, and I’m often troubled by the changes I witness in this once trend setting town.
    The idea that this sort of criminal ambush could actually occur right here is a shock to me, and just one more time I find myself disgusted and embarrassed by the change of environment in this place I once admired above all others. I think as a community we owe it to this family to demonstrate the kindness and support we once prided ourselves on.

  30. Martha Sheil and Marcia Fowler on February 26th, 2017 3:15 pm

    It would appear that this administration has lumped all immigrants into one category. What happened to the compassion that the President promised? Mr. Ajin’s only crime seems to have been reacting to hateful phone calls. Discrimination and bigotry have always been with us, but the new administration including the POTUS have made it part of their agenda. It is shameful and we must not allow them to take our country away from us! Ajin Family, we stand with you!

  31. Tracy on February 26th, 2017 7:48 pm

    If we are unable to come to the hearing, is there anything else we can do to support the family? Can we write a letter of support and where should it be emailed? Thank you for posting this story and making the community aware so we can pull together to help.

  32. Joel Appel-Kraut on February 27th, 2017 10:34 am

    Letters of support can be emailed to tuzinsky@aaps.k12.mi.us by midnight tonight, Monday, Feb. 27.

  33. Kitty Jensen on February 26th, 2017 8:49 pm

    This is horrifying but not surprising. Donald Trump is not a joke and someone to chuckle at…he is dead serious. The media need to get in his face with his lies and confront him with his racist policies instead of laughing at him like he is a lark. We need to stand up against him and his administration’s tyranny.

  34. Alia al shaikh on February 27th, 2017 1:18 am

    Mr. Ajin is a good man, works around the clock to care for his family. I know he was working to become a citizen of the USA. I pray for him during this difficult time. GOD WILL BE HIS WARRIOR, and it will work out. I hope to visit the family to offer help. Have faith & GOD WILL WALK WITH YOU.

  35. Jim and Cindy Pierson on February 27th, 2017 6:38 am

    We and members of our church, Church of the Good Shepherd, in Ann Arbor will be at the hearing on Tuesday in support of Mr. Ajin.

  36. Deana on February 27th, 2017 11:30 am

    Feels like Only part of the story is being told. He has been reporting bi-weekly due to being on a “Fast Track Program” after being in this country for 18 years? Nope … big missing pieces to this story and people are grabbing on to the tag lines and running with them!

  37. Kate Mendeloff on February 27th, 2017 12:09 pm

    I am an Ann Arbor resident and speak out in support of Mr. Ain. He was proceeding in a legal fashion towards his goal of citizenship when this arrest happened.

    Please show me and my community that ours is not an intolerant and xenophobic country. Restore this man to his family immediately!

  38. Alan on February 27th, 2017 9:41 pm

    What is Mr. Ajin’s immigration status? Is he a permanent resident applying for citizenship? Or does he hold a valid visa of some kind?

    I support immigrant families 100% — it just seems odd that this information was not included in the article.

  39. Rick on February 28th, 2017 6:31 am

    Good for news channels for speaking of it, bad for no reporters showing up to demand an answer as to why he his held. Likely its petty white power flaunters flexing their bully natures ( I am white) inspired by a lunatic POTUS

  40. Kristina on February 28th, 2017 1:08 pm

    I don’t understand? Was he detained because he verbally sparred with an immigration officer over the phone or was this because of the Trump edicts. Otherwise, why was he jailed? Don’t get me wrong. I think this situation is unacceptable but do wonder if we are hearing the whole story.

  41. Tom on February 28th, 2017 6:36 pm

    FAKE NEWS TO DRAW ATTENTION Why is there no mention of his FELONY in this article. He stole someones credit card with intent to use or sell back in 2000. What was his sentence? Your spinning this whole story that he is a working man, immigrant that is being punished by the new policy. He is a convicted felon carrying a green card in this country. Why is he allow to stay in this country for so long (over 17 years) on a green card and not apply for citizenship in a timely matter. His wife is a U.S. citizen, why isn’t he. Bi-weekly reporting due to fast track citizenship now after 17 years? Why? I’m sure he is a hard worker and cares for his family very much and I sympathize with his plight. Report the whole story so we can understand the complete dynamics.

  42. Schultz on March 2nd, 2017 12:06 pm

    Kate, Before you go all off on “ intolerant and xenophobic country”, or people get too teary eyed for the family that lost their “only source of income” as has been thrown around the media– I would take an educated, professional guess and estimate that the family has received about $20,000-$25,000/yr for 15 years in food stamps, subsidized rent, social security payments, and medical for the whole family. Not including the medical services paid from medicare and/or medicaid, this total would be –so far–over $300,000. On top of that, they will most likely receive a minimum 2 years full paid college tuition for all their children and help with the last 2years. All this courtesy of the “Nasty, heartless US government” funded by the citizens that have scraping by themselves and paying the taxes to fund this family. If Mr. Yousef would have been sent back the day he stole from the people that welcomed him here as a guest to our country—we would not be having this discussion. And, maybe we would have up $300,000 and more in the pot to take care of our veterans, elderly, and homeless persons.

    I won’t be donating–I already have been for years. I just hope that the children of this man does not carry on the family tradition of taking advantage of the good nature of our government and people.

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