The man who turned on his father, a founder of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, and then spied against the organization for Israel won an immigration case Wednesday that will allow him to avoid deportation and stay in the United States.
Mosab Hassan Yousef received a favorable immigration court ruling in San Diego and can now seek political asylum. The ruling came after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) abruptly withdrew its contention that Mr. Yousef should be kicked out of the country because of his ties to Hamas.
An immigration judge ruled that Mr. Yousef is eligible for asylum if he passes a routine background check. Government lawyer Kerri Calcador gave no explanation for the government’s change of heart, the Associated Press reported.
Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said, “During a hearing this morning, DHS attorneys recommended to the court that Mr. Yousef be granted the requested relief.”
Mr. Yousef is tied to Hamas through his relationship with his father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of the organization. The elder Yousef is now in an Israeli prison and has denounced his son for his conversion to Christianity and his admission that he spied for Israel’s domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet.
Mr. Yousef’s handler for the Shin Bet, Gonen Ben-Itzhak, traveled to San Diego to testify on behalf of his former agent. At a dinner honoring Mr. Yousef last week in Washington, Mr. Ben-Itzhak said the son of the Hamas leader had saved American and Israeli lives with the information he provided while posing as a terrorist.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Mr. Yousef said he was happy.
“All of the sudden I became eligible for political asylum,” he said, laughing. “Before I was a threat to U.S. national security because I had an affiliation with a terrorist organization.”
In the last several weeks, the U.S. Jewish community rallied to Mr. Yousef’s cause to stay in the United States. Members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and members of Congress wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, organized a letter to Mr. Holder and Ms. Napolitano signed by 22 Republican House members urging Ms. Napolitano to grant the Palestinian asylum.
The letter stated that “Mr. Yousef’s conversion to Christianity and work with Israeli intelligence services would place Mr. Yousef in grave danger should he be forced to return to the Middle East.”
Mr. Yousef said for now he intends to continue public speaking against terrorism and what he has called the main cause of terrorism in the Middle East, Islam.
“The problem in Islam is very clear if we look at the personality of the God of Islam. You will understand it is not the religion of peace,” he said.
Hamas, the organization co-founded by his father, seeks to impose a strict version of Islamic law across the area it considers Palestine, which also includes the modern state of Israel.
“I will expose the ideological dimension of the motivation of terrorists, why terrorists are attacking Americans, why are they doing this,” he said.
“I want to help increase the security awareness of the American public,” Mr. Yousef said. “This is the responsibility of every citizen. It is about international security.”
Mr. Yousef has been in the United States since 2007, but he had not sought publicity until earlier this year, when he published a memoir, “Son of Hamas,” about his time as an Israeli spy.
In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Yousef also said he felt he had a “responsibility to my own people.”
Mr. Yousef stated: “An important part of that is that they believe in a God that gives them the authority to kill people in the name of liberation and resistance. But they are misunderstanding. They are fighting against freedom. They are deceived because they think they have the right to kill innocent people or kill anyone.”
Mr. Yousef is not the first scion of an Islamic leader who has turned on political Islam. Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran’s Islamic revolution, toured Washington in 2003 and said in an interview that he supported the violent overthrow of Iran’s government.
In the case of the younger Khomeini, however, he did not turn on the faith of Islam, only the Islamic republic of Iran. Mr. Yousef, however, has condemned the entire religion and converted to Christianity.
“I am a believer in Christ,” Mr. Yousef said. “He did force not himself on me. He does not force himself on anyone. When we talk about God’s grace and unconditional love, I believe that if people believe in these concepts, the world will be better. You don’t have to believe in Christianity to believe in love and God’s grace. But it is good to share with others something that I believe has been good for my life.”