OMAHA , Nebraska: An immigration judge gave three Egyptian students who were the subject of a U.S.-wide alert last month after they did not show up for an exchange program another week to weigh their options.
The students lawyer, Amy Peck, requested the delay Wednesday at a hearing at the Department of Homeland Security facility in Omaha.
She told Judge James Fujimoto, who appeared via video teleconference from Chicago, that the students wanted to talk with family before deciding how to proceed, but they had some logistical trouble reaching people in Egypt from the Polk County, Iowa jail.
The three students – Mohamed Ibrahim El Sayed El Moghazy, 20; Ahmed Refaat Saad El Moghazi El Laket, 19; and Moustafa Wagdy Moustafa El Gafary, 18 – were arrested at a Des Moines, Iowa residence on Aug. 11 on suspicion of violating the conditions of their student visas when they did not show up for an exchange program in Bozeman, Montana.The students did not attend Wednesday s hearing.
In early August, U.S. authorities issued a nationwide alert after 11 of 17 students from Mansoura University in Egypt did not show up for the program.
The 30-day program at Montana State University the Egyptian students had planned to attend is already over, but Peck has said her clients had originally hoped to extend their student visas beyond that program to continue studying in the United States.
Peck said the students can either accept deportation, ask to leave the country voluntarily or request asylum.
If the students are deported, Peck said they would be barred from returning to the United States for several years. If the students agree to leave voluntarily, they could avoid the stigma of deportation, but Peck said prosecutors have told her they would fight that.
Prosecutor Paul Stultz has declined to answer questions on the case, but government officials have said none of the Egyptian students associated with this case pose a credible threat to the United States.
Last month, the three students persuaded Fujimoto to set a $10,000 cash bond for them, but prosecutors appealed, forcing the students to remain in custody while the appeal is decided.