OMAHA, Nebraska: Three Egyptian students who sparked a nationwide search when they failed to show up for a university exchange program last month were ordered deported Monday.
The students – Mohamed Ibrahim El Sayed El Moghazy, 20; Ahmed Refaat Saad El Moghazi El Laket, 19; and Moustafa Wagdy Moustafa El Gafary, 18 – had admitted they violated U.S. immigration laws and asked Judge James Fujimoto to allow them to return home voluntarily.
Fujimoto, who presided over the hearing via teleconference from Chicago, denied the request and ordered the three deported, citing their brief time in the United States, lack of long-term and family ties here and decision to flee immediately upon entering the country.
In the future, the three will need special permission to ever re-enter the U.S., which they would not have needed if they were allowed to leave voluntarily.
Voluntary departure has been granted in thousands of other cases, and this one is not unique, the students lawyer, Amy Peck, said after the decision was announced.
Peck has said the three said they feared they would be sent home if anyone in the group did not show up to the exchange program. She said when some students left the group after arriving in New York, her clients decided to go sightseeing in San Francisco. They then took a bus to Des Moines, Iowa, and used fake names, she said.
Peck did not know if they would appeal the decision.
The three were among 17 students from Mansoura University in Egypt invited to a month-long exchange program at Montana State University.
Only six students showed up to the program, prompting U.S. authorities to issue a nationwide search for the remaining 11 students. All were detained, but none were considered a terrorism risk.