Tunisian national who backed ISIS deported from US, ICE officials say

Federal immigration officials said they have removed a Tunisian national who had allegedly declared his support for the Islamic State, entered the U.S. on a sham marriage, and committed tax fraud.

Enforcement and Removal Operations officers escorted Houcine Ghoul from New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday evening and turned him over to Tunisian authorities Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.

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Houcine Ghoul, a Tunisian national whom authorities say entered the U.S. on a sham marriage and later declared his support for ISIS, has been deported to his home country. (Franklin County Detention Center)

Houcine Ghoul, a Tunisian national whom authorities say entered the U.S. on a sham marriage and later declared his support for ISIS, has been deported to his home country. (Franklin County Detention Center)

A U.S. District Judge had sentenced Ghoul in August 2018 to two years in prison, followed by deportation for “unlawful procurement of naturalization” and falsifying his tax return, the ICE statement said.

Authorities said Ghoul entered the U.S. from Tunisia on a tourist visa in 2001. He then overstayed his tourist visa, married a U.S. citizen – whom he later divorced – and obtained a legal permanent resident status.

Authorities began investigating Ghoul in April 2014 after he posted a photo online declaring his support for ISIS. The photo showed an individual with a sign in Arabic that read: “The victory of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” followed in English by: “ISIS,” and “N. Carolina, USA,” where he was then residing.

The photo was used in a propaganda video to show ISIS’ supposed global reach, according to ICE. Ghoul did not use his name on the online account but provided the description: “Extremist, terrorist, brain-washed, radical, I love explosions, booby trapping, beheading the enemy, and am among the supporters of establishing the religion with the sword.”

"Extremist, terrorist, brain-washed, radical, I love explosions, booby trapping, beheading the enemy, and am among the supporters of establishing the religion with the sword."

— Houcine Ghoul

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services interviewed Ghoul in February 2017 regarding his December 2014 application to become a U.S. citizen. Authorities said Ghoul made a number of false statements and was not forthright about his sham marriage, support for ISIS, advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. government, or having lied to the State of North Carolina to obtain childcare benefits.

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The investigation into Ghoul’s activities involved multiple agencies, including ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, and the IRS.