A man who employs six people in California is so fed up of fighting to remain in the US he and his family have “deported” themselves.
Khaled Altarkeet, the owner of a café in San Jose, donated leftover food to Catholic charities before boarding a plane to Kuwait with his wife and four children after he was unable to extend his business visa.
“I’m shutting the business and forgetting the United States,” he told The Mercury News. “I will find another country that is more accepting and willing to take my investments, since this place doesn’t want us.”
Mr Alterkeet initially obtained an L-1 visa, which was valid for one year, in order to work on his business. But immigration authorities refused to grant the entrepreneur an extension when he applied in October, on the grounds he failed to prove he was the manager or an executive.
“Normally, for a visa extension, we do it in our sleep,” Mr Altarkeet’s lawyer, Steven Riznyk, told the newspaper. “We don’t have problems with extensions. All of a sudden, lawyers are calling me, asking, ‘What the heck is going on?’ Everyone is getting these crazy decisions and don’t know what to do with it.”
“You question how is this possible? If Khaled’s case isn’t good enough, then whose is?”
While appealing the decision, Mr Alterkeet obtained a six-month tourist visa. But the family decided to leave after he claimed officials reduced the visa from six months to one, without any suggestion his appeal would be successful.
“Think about what a kick in the face this is,” Mr Riznyk said. “First we approve you, you spend all your money, then we don’t approve you and we give you a month to sell off all your assets.”
Heba Alshbaili, Mr Alterkeet’s wife, told the newspaper: “We moved here with the kids. We bought a car, registered our kids for school, rented a place, bought furniture, everything for a new life here.”
Immigration lawyers have warned the Trump administration’s “hire American, buy American” policy is to blame for the additional scrutiny on immigrants entering the country on L-1 business visas.
“It’s much harder to get one for someone from Africa or Asia than someone in Europe,” immigration lawyer Jason Feldman said. “The Middle East falls into that group of people I imagine they’re trying to keep out. There’s a general mindset of, ‘Is there any way to deny this?’”
Mr Alterkeet recently saw a sticker on a stop sign that read: “Build the Wall. Deport them all.”
“I didn’t believe it,” Mr Altarkeet said. “I said ‘That’s it’. So fine, we are deporting ourselves.”
The Independent has contacted US Customs and Immigration Services for comment.