An Egyptian student in California has agreed to return to Cairo after he wrote a threatening comment on Facebook about Donald J. Trump that drew the attention of the Secret Service and led to the cancellation of his student visa, according to law enforcement officials and his lawyer.
Emadeldin Elsayed, 23, posted an article on Facebook last month about Mr. Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States. “I literally don’t mind taking a lifetime sentence in jail for killing this guy, I would actually be doing the whole world a favor,” he wrote, according to his lawyer, Hani Bushra.
After the Secret Service investigated his comments, Mr. Elsayed was expelled from flight school, which made him ineligible to continue studying in the country on a visa, even though prosecutors decided not to charge him. Rights advocates say they are alarmed by his case and see it as another sign of the U.S. government using the immigration system as a punitive tool against people, particularly Muslims, who are perceived as threats.
An immigration judge last Friday granted Mr. Elsayed a voluntary departure, a form of repatriation that spares him a formal deportation but returns him to Egypt escorted by federal agents, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Lawyers said it would be difficult for him to return.
Mr. Bushra said that his client “thought Trump was hating on Muslims” when he read the article he posted and put “no thought” into his threatening comment. “He isn’t very involved in politics,” the lawyer said.
Caitlin Sanderson, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Southern California, said that Mr. Elsayed’s comment on Facebook would have been “a very difficult case to prosecute.” It seemed to be an example of a young person mouthing off online, she said, not threatening an actual murder.
The United States attorney’s office in Los Angeles declined to file criminal charges against him, but a spokesman did not explain the rationale. The legality of his remarks became a moot point, once his visa was revoked and the deportation process began.
“This is not how our system should work,” Mr. Bushra said. “Their mentality is ‘whatever we can use to get this guy out of the country we can use.’ ”
Claude Arnold, a retired Special Agent in Charge of I.C.E. Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, described the matter in similar terms. Mr. Arnold said law enforcement had to take remarks like Mr. Elsayed’s seriously and deporting him instead of prosecuting him “makes sense” because it is more efficient. “If you can accomplish the same thing another way” he said, “neutralizing the potential threat by removing someone from the country, why wouldn’t you do that?”
The authorities learned of Mr. Elsayed’s Facebook post when the owner of his flight school, Universal Air Academy, in El Monte, Calif., called the F.B.I., court documents show. Soon the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the State Department and the Secret Service, which provides security to Mr. Trump, were alerted as well.
A Secret Service spokesman confirmed that an investigation took place but declined to discuss specifics. Court documents show that the State Department canceled the student’s entry visa, but for him to be in violation of his immigration status he had to be expelled from school.
In a statement submitted to the court, the school’s owner, Alex Khatib, said Secret Service agents came to his office after business hours on Feb. 11 and made the “suggestion” that he expel the student because “it was better for Mr. Elsayed to leave the country.”
He complied with their request, and when Mr. Elsayed arrived at school the next day he was arrested by ICE agents.
Judge Kevin Riley denied Mr. Elsayed’s request to be released on bond at two deportation hearings last week. He has been jailed since his arrest and will remain in custody until he is escorted to Egypt, Ms. Kice said.
Now, Mr. Bushra said, “He is just anxious to leave and get home as fast as possible.”
Mr. Elsayed will arrive in Egypt to some notoriety. Relatives in Cairo have appeared on evening talk shows where hosts point to his detention as a sign that America respects neither free speech nor Muslims.
In a statement submitted to the court, Mr. Elsayed called his threat a “foolish post” and said he wanted to return to school.
With his visa canceled, $40,000 in tuition lost, a Secret Service investigation and a month in immigration detention haunting his past, Mr. Bushra said his client’s dream of working as an airline pilot seems dashed.
“He is devastated and he is smart enough to know that he is going to pay for this mistake for a long, long time,” Mr. Bushra said.