Anees Sous had his bags packed on Tuesday afternoon, in preparation for a Wednesday flight to Jordan that would have fulfilled a deportation order from immigration officials. He began saying goodbye to his friends, but still held out hope for a last-minute reprieve.
Anees Sous, facing deportation proceedings after living in the U.S. for 27 years and raising six American-born children, was given an extra 30 days to stay in the country on Tuesday by ICE officials. He expected to be forced to leave Wednesday.
Then, at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, his phone rang. His lawyer had gotten word that U.S. Rep. John Conyers convinced local Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to grant Sous another 30 days in the U.S.
"It was exciting," said Sous's 20-year-old daughter Tasneem about getting the news. "But what happens when the 30 days are over?"
Sous's lawyer and advocates hope to get his immigration case reopened. His case, they say, should have originally been consolidated with his wife's case. His wife is eligible for permanent resident status and he likely would not have received the deportation order had his previous lawyers combined the two cases.
Sous, who lives and owns a trucking company in Hamtramck, has lived in the U.S. for 27 years, though his student visa expired long ago. He was detained in 2001, beginning a long process of court hearings and appeals.
After exhausting nearly all legal options, a groundswell of support from friends and immigrant-rights activists who describe Sous as a model citizen starting generating buzz about his case at a time when immigration reform legislation is creeping toward the forefront of national political discouse.
Hundreds of petition signatures and letters of support came pouring in. Supporters believe the noise prompted Conyers and immigration officials to take another look at Sous's case.
"You can't describe it," Sous said Thursday afternoon. "If that wouldn't have happened, by this time I'd be in Amman, Jordan. Thank God I'm still here with my family and my kids... It's not over yet. There are no promises. I need all the support I can get."
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Regional Director Imad Hamad, said the support Sous received arose spontaneously, without any particular organization taking the lead.
"People really responded. People were moved. This campaign was a spontaneous campaign, not organized. His campaign was a true people's campaign. Internet, emails, calls — across the country. His story was picked up in so many places so fast and I think that's what caused officials to pay attention to the case. It shows that when we mobilize, with focus, a difference can be made."
But Hamad said the challenge is not over. Sous has to straighten out an 18-year-old tax violation and supporters will have to keep pressure on officials to help resolve his case, he said.
"We are thankful to ICE for what, to them, is a minor gesture... As a father, if I was to be in his shoes... I'm sure it was like a miracle."
In a related development, immigration judges on January 21 were given discretion in deportation of employment-based visa holders. The issue at stake was whether an immigration judge has the authority to decide whether an approved visa petition — issued for one job — remains valid when the individual changes jobs. Without a valid visa petition, the individual would not be eligible for permanent residence. Judges will now be able to decide whether a new job is acceptable, thus keeping the individual's eligibility for permanent residence intact and potentially saving them from deportation.