U.S. Nearly Deports French WWII Scholar en Route to Texas Symposium

It is unclear why Henry Rousso, a Jew who was born in Egypt, was detained and nearly deported by immigration authorities as an illegal alien.

Protesters of Trump's travel ban at George Bush Intercontinental  Airport in Houston, Texas, U.S., January 28, 2017.
Protesters of Trump's travel ban at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, U.S., January 28, 2017. TRISH BADGER/REUTERS

U.S. authorities came close to deporting an Egyptian-born French Jewish scholar on his way to speak at a symposium at Texas A&M.

Henry Rousso was detained in Houston when the university enlisted one of its law professors who specializes in immigrant rights to intervene, The Eagle, a news site covering the Bryan-College Station area, where the university is located, reported on Saturday.

The newspaper reported that there was a “misunderstanding” regarding Rousso’s visa, leading authorities to classify him as an illegal alien. Fatma Marouf, the law professor, told The Eagle that she had not previously seen such strict enforcement.

“It seems like there’s much more rigidity and rigor in enforcing these immigration requirements and the technicalities of every visa,” said Marouf, who helped author an amicus brief earlier this month against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry to refugees and to travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. The courts have stayed the ban, which Trump instituted to prevent terrorist attacks.

It’s not clear what led to Rousso’s detention and near-deportation; Egypt is not among the Muslim-majority countries listed.

Rousso, 62, who specializes in memory and trauma, has written extensively on World War II-era France. According to his French-language Wikipedia entry, he was a visiting scholar in 2006 at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

He and his family were forced out of Egypt in 1956 under anti-Semitic measures instituted by the Nasser regime.