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Detroit — Fifteen months ago, Yousef Ajin was in federal detention, separated from his family and facing deportation.

Now the 49-year-old Ann Arbor father of four is a bonafide citizen of the United States.

After winning his battle to stay in the country with his U.S.-citizen wife and children, the longtime Ann Arbor resident was among 80 immigrants from 27 countries who took the oath of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony May 10 at the U.S. District Court in downtown Detroit.

He teared up afterward.

“It’s good. I’m like anybody who’s an American citizen. I have rights for everything,” Ajin said, adding it’s a lot of stress off his shoulders to know he likely won’t face deportation ever again.

His family was there to celebrate his achievement, along with Community High School theater teacher Quinn Strassel, who helped raise money last year to cover Ajin’s legal expenses.

“He really is a good person and today has been a very happy day,” Strassel said.

Ajin, who is from Jordan, came to the U.S. legally about two decades ago and has been a legal permanent resident with a green card, living in Ann Arbor with his wife, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and their children, who were born here and attend Ann Arbor schools. Ajin works as a delivery driver for a local restaurant.

When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ramped up deportation efforts after President Donald Trump took office, Ajin was targeted because of past crimes and a past deportation order.

With criminal convictions from the early 2000s for shoplifting and using a credit card that wasn’t his, mistakes from which he says he learned and for which he already served probation and paid fines many years ago, Ajin was deportable. A judge ordered his deportation in 2012 after he missed an immigration court hearing.

After that, Ajin said he was placed in a special program similar to probation, cooperating with ICE and checking in regularly.

But just days after Trump took office, things changed and his next check-in turned into arrest and detainment.

He spent the next month in jail before a judge granted a rare deportation waiver following a two-hour hearing in Detroit Immigration Court. Because Ajin has a special-needs child, the judge determined his deportation would cause extreme hardship for the family.

Ajin, who said he has wanted to become a citizen for several years, said he applied to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services this past year after his deportation was waived.

On May 10 in Detroit, Judge Mark Goldsmith administered the citizenship oath, which includes renouncing allegiance to any foreign state, agreeing to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and laws against all enemies, bearing arms on behalf of the U.S. if required and agreeing to perform non-combative service in the Armed Forces if required.

The judge talked about his own family’s immigration history and how America is a land of immigrants.

The countries represented by those who took the oath were Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine and Yemen.

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