A California business owner has decided to leave the United States after his business visa extension request was denied and his family’s future legal status was thrown into question.
"Khaled Altarkeet," the business owner, "is so frustrated, he is 'self-deporting,'" The Mercury News reported.
“I will find another country that is more accepting and willing to take my investments, since this place doesn’t want us,” Altarkeet said. "
After arriving in the country in 2016 from Kuwait, Altarkeet purchased the Pomegranate Cafe in San Jose and began remodeling another restaurant in Saratoga, which he was preparing to open as a breakfast and lunch cafe.
Altarkeet is a businessman in Kuwait and arrived in the U.S. with an L1 nonimmigrant business visa, which needs to be renewed after a year. But in October 2017, his extension request was denied, with officials claiming he could not sufficiently demonstrate he was a manager or executive of his restaurants, despite his investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the businesses. He obtained a tourist visa while initially hoping his denial would be reconsidered, but he said he has given up hope.
Altarkeet’s lawyer, Steven Riznyk, a seasoned immigration law practitioner, called the denial arbitrary and misguided, according to The Mercury News.
“Everyone is getting these crazy decisions and don’t know what to do with it," Riznyk said. "You question how is this possible? If Khaled’s case isn’t good enough, then whose is? Think about what a kick in the face this is.”
“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,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services office in Northern California declined to comment.
Lawyers interviewed for the piece said that immigrants have experienced more difficulty obtaining L1 visas since Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, which was signed in April 2017.
But another California-based immigration lawyer alleged that racism also factors into which individuals are denied visas and extensions, saying that Europeans are granted more visas.
Much attention has focused on Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico and incendiary language toward countries in the Global South. Altarkeet’s case shows the ways in which government agencies can use existing legislation to make life difficult for immigrants already in the country.