Nearly nine months pregnant, Basima Diab sits by the phone most days, waiting for her husband, Basem, to call from the detention center where he has spent the last two weeks.
She worries about whether he has enough blankets. It gets very cold in there, she said.
With their 3-year-old daughter in tow, the Diabs, both 34, came from Syria on tourist visas nearly a year ago, hoping for a taste of the relaxed social norms that draw so many from the Middle East to the suburbs outside of Disneyland.
A few months later, Mrs. Diab began what has been a difficult pregnancy, with frequent trips to the emergency room to treat her diabetes. The health care has been so good that the couple decided to stay in the United States until the baby was born, if not longer.
To cover the doctor visits and rent on their apartment in Stanton, Calif., Mr. Diab started loading trucks at Sasha Cosmetics, a company in Huntington Beach, Calif. Hes an educated guy, an engineer, Niazi Azhak, the owner, said. But he couldnt find work anywhere else.
Nor was he supposed to. Under the terms of his visa, working is a deportable offense. Yet Mr. Diab stacked boxes at the plant for several weeks, earning roughly $1,500 a month, about 10 times what he might have made in Syria, his wife said. Then, 15 minutes after he showed up for his shift on Nov. 7, Mr. Diab was taken away by federal agents.
At a minimum, immigration officials said, Mr. Diab overstayed his visa, and would likely get a hearing before an immigration judge in the next few weeks. In the meantime, his former employers have said they would buy the family plane tickets back to Syria, while others in the Middle Eastern community in Orange County would try to find money for bail, if the judge granted it, and food for Mrs. Diab. Greg Winter