ICE must come clean

Well-known Youngstown businessman Amer “Al” Adi Othman was forced onto an airplane in Chicago last week and deported to his native Jordan by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Adi had lived in the United States for almost 40 years before he was kicked out Monday without so much as a goodbye kiss for his wife, Fidaa Musleh, and their four daughters. ICE had snuck him out of the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown where he had been imprisoned after spending several days in the Geauga County jail.

The owner of the Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli and Circle Hookah and Bar called his family from O’Hare International Airport to say he was being put on a flight that night. He arrived in Amman the next day and was greeted by family members, including his elderly mother whom he had not seen for many years.

The reason for the long separation: Adi had been living in the United States illegally after Immigration and Customs Enforcement withdrew his permanent resident status. He knew that if he left the country, he would not be allowed to re-enter.

He and his family spent many years and thousands of dollars trying to secure another green card by virtue of his marriage to a naturalized citizen.

But the federal government refused on the grounds that Adi’s initial permanent residency had been secured illegally. Immigration officials had accused him of perpetrating a fraud when he married a native-born American citizen in California.

Adi had come to the United States in 1980 on a student visa when he was 19. He married shortly thereafter and seven months later received his green card. He separated from his wife in August 1981 and the divorce was final in November.

Adi moved to Youngstown, met Musleh and married her 29 years ago. Shortly after they were married they went to Brazil where they lived for three years. Because he was gone for so long, he lost his permanent resident status.

He returned to the U.S. on a visitor’s visa, but ICE confiscated his green card.

And that was the beginning of Adi’s nightmare with ICE. Agents persuaded his first wife to sign a document that said the marriage was fraudulent and was cooked up just to get him legal standing.

That set the federal government’s ball rolling on the Youngstown businessman’s deportation.

Indeed, ICE refused to stop the ball even after Adi’s first wife retracted her initial statement and submitted a sworn affidavit that said the marriage was legitimate and that her original allegation was made under duress. In other words, she claimed federal agents put enormous pressure on her.

But ICE refused to reconsider its deportation order.

Thus, when the U.S. government sent Adi back to Jordan, it basically accused his first wife of lying when she said the marriage was legitimate.

Although ICE has refused to discuss the details of the Adi case, the deportation does demand a fuller explanation than the vague contention that the case was litigated extensively in various courts of law.

The fact remains that Adi was never given the chance to face his accusers in court. Why wasn’t he put under oath and asked specific questions about his life in California and his first marriage?

Why were ICE agents not willing to let him, members of his family and his friends, including Mahoning Valley Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Howland, talk about his life in Youngstown?

Why wasn’t the federal government amenable to conducting a public hearing on this case?

During his first State of the Union address Tuesday to a joint session of Congress, President Donald J. Trump, whose attitude toward illegal immigrants has emboldened ICE agents to act imperiously, spent a considerable amount of time talking about the need to reform the broken immigration system.

One of the pillars of the president’s plan focuses on the current visa lottery program.

The president noted that the program “randomly hands out green cards without any regard to skill, merit, or the safety of our people.”

“It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system – one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country,” Trump said.

Really, that’s who the Republican president believes should be living in America?

Well, Amer Adi Othman epitomizes the president’s ideal immigrant. He not only worked hard, but by investing his dollars in his downtown business, he put other people to work.

As for contributing to society, Adi not only was generous in his support of agencies and organizations that help the less fortunate, he fed the needy each Thanksgiving day.

And there’s no doubt that he and his family love and respect this country.

Another pillar of Trump’s reform plan aims to “protect the nuclear family by ending chain migration.”

“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” the president said. “Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security and our future.”

If the White House were to take the time to review Amer Adi Othman’s case file and conduct interviews with Congressman Ryan and others, it would find that a grave injustice has been committed.

The downtown businessman who has spent his adult life working rather than living on the dole deserves to be heard.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a responsibility to the public to explain its decision to deport Amer Adi Othman.

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