The White House has said they are focused on deporting undocumented immigrants who "pose a threat to this country," but advocates say undocumented immigrants without criminal records are being detained by ICE. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

A foreign Arizona State University student who was caught last year taking surreptitious videos of women using the bathroom now faces deportation to China, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Xiaoyuan Zhang, 22, was convicted in January on felony voyeurism charges, according to court records. The Chinese national was in the United States on a student visa and enrolled as an undergraduate communications student at ASU, a university spokeswoman confirmed.

After Zhang’s conviction, a federal immigration judge determined the Chinese national “no longer has a legal basis to remain in the U.S.,” ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Accordingly, ICE is now making preparations to repatriate Mr. Zhang to his native country.”

(Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

Zhang was apprehended inside a lecture hall on ASU’s Tempe campus on the night of Sept. 26, after two women observed him emerging from the women’s restroom and suspected he had taken video and photographs of them while inside, according to police records obtained by KTVK News.

The women detained Zhang and took his phone away from him so he couldn’t delete anything, police records said. When officers arrived, Zhang gave consent to search his phone; the two women watched videos recorded on the phone and were able to identify victims, records stated.

According to a probable cause statement, Zhang had not been able to find the men’s room in the building and decided to use the women’s restroom instead. While in the center stall, he used his phone to record video of the women because he had a “dirty mind,” Zhang later told a police officer who conducted a more detailed interview in Mandarin at the station.

Police obtained a warrant to search Zhang’s phone and obtained other evidence of inappropriate photos.

He was charged with six counts of unlawful viewing, taping and recording of persons, records showed. Because Zhang was a Chinese national, police also placed him on a federal immigration hold.

In its report, ASU police noted Zhang had a history of taking surreptitious photos and videos from underneath women’s skirts.

In his initial court appearance in September, Zhang — dressed in a black T-shirt with “OBEY” emblazoned on the front — fidgeted as a judge explained that he could not be released from jail as long as the immigration hold was in place, even if he posted his $5,000 bond.

The judge also told Zhang that, if he was released, he could not return to the scene of the crime and could not have contact with the victims in the case.

Zhang seemed confused, asking several times through a translator whether it made a difference if he posted bond or not, as well as when a federal immigration judge might make a decision.

“As I told you, there’s always the possibility that you’re not released by the federal government,” the judge told him. “You may be removed from the country. … If they do release you, then you have the ability at that point to post your bond.”

After Zhang was convicted on voyeurism charges, he was transferred to ICE custody on Jan. 24, said O’Keefe, the agency spokeswoman.

Shortly after that, an immigration judge with the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review decided Zhang would not be allowed to remain in the United States, she said.

It is unclear how soon Zhang might be removed from the United States. An ICE spokeswoman declined to answer further questions about the case.

Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney based in Buffalo, said the timeline for deportations varies — from two months to “on the long end, six months to a year” — depending on the facility in which a person is held.

For student visa holders in the United States, even minor criminal charges can be grounds for deportation. If a student is convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude,” he or she could be deported and not allowed to reenter the United States without a waiver and permission to reapply from the attorney general during the life span of the deportation order, Kolken said. Those deported as aggravated felons are also likely permanently inadmissible without a waiver, he added.

There also is the possibility that China may not take Zhang back. The Department of Homeland Security lists China as one of 23 countries considered “uncooperative or recalcitrant” when it comes to ICE’s repatriation efforts. According to the department, such countries sometimes hinder ICE’s efforts by refusing to allow charter flights into the country or denying or delaying travel documents.

Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq also appear on the list.

“Whether a foreign government wholly refuses to take back one of its nationals or simply refuses to take back its nationals in a timely manner, there are significant resource implications for ICE,” ICE deputy director Daniel Ragsdale said in written testimony for the House Oversight Committee in July. He added that “there is a clear public safety threat posed to the United States by the failure of uncooperative or recalcitrant countries to accept the timely return of their nationals who have committed crimes in this country.”


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