Area businessman a victim of US immigration system

In one respect, it’s a story that warms the cockles of the heart – in the midst of arctic temperatures engulfing the Mahoning Valley.

But in another, it’s a commentary on the flawed immigration system that has put the lives of hundreds of thousands of people residing in this country in jeopardy.

The story is about a Valley businessman, Amer Adi Othman, known locally as Al Adi, and his wife, Fidaa, who were scheduled to be on a flight to Amman, Jordan, today under a deportation order for Adi from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Fortunately, Adi got a last-minute reprieve as a result of an outpouring of support for him from the community and a bipartisan political effort locally and in Washington.

There were tears of sorrow Tuesday when Adi, the target of ICE’s deportation order, talked to The Vindicator about being forced to leave the country he has called home for four decades.

And there were tears of joy Thursday when he found out from Congressman Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, that his departure had been stayed temporarily.

Ryan worked with Adi’s lawyer, David Leopold of Cleveland; Mahoning County Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Tracey Winbush; U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and the House Judiciary Committee to stop the deportation.

The Vindicator has reported extensively on the facts surrounding Adi’s immigration problems and his inability to get permanent residency status, even though his wife is a naturalized citizen.

The Valley businessman has been battling the federal government for more than 20 years, and when it appeared he had reached the end of the road, Congressman Ryan stepped in and introduced a special bill that held the deportation order in abeyance until all legal avenues were pursued.

However, after President Donald J. Trump took office in January 2017, the federal government decided deportations of illegal immigrants would proceed even if there was legislation pending in Congress on their behalf.

Departure date

Thus, Adi was given the Jan. 7 date for his departure, with ICE officials contending his case had been litigated in the courts.

But here’s the rub: Adi, owner of the Downtown Circle Convenience & Deli and Circle Hookah and Bar in Youngstown, contends he has not been given the chance to present his case in a formal hearing.

We, therefore, urge federal authorities to consider the extraordinary case of a man who for all intents and purposes is an American. He came to this country at the age of 19, has raised a family, has owned several businesses in Youngstown and, most important of all, is a taxpayer of long standing.

In other words, he is exactly the kind of immigrant President Trump, who has taken a hard line on illegal immigration, says should be admitted to the U.S.

And yet, ICE has based its case against him on a claim that his first marriage in 1980 was fraudulent. The agency refused to budge, even after Adi’s first wife filed an affidavit that recanted her original contention about the marriage, which she said was given under duress, and said it was, in fact, legitimate.

But with ICE standing firm, Adi’s green card that gave him permanent residency was confiscated.

As a result, he has spent the past 25 years trying to secure another green card on the basis of being married to his current wife, a naturalized citizen.

Now, however, with members of Congress from both parties in his corner, Adi and his lawyer have a chance to make the case for permanent residency to the courts.

But time is of the essence, as a spokesman for ICE indicated.

“Just to clarify, there is no stay in place. The removal is temporarily postponed while ICE finalizes removal arrangements,” the spokesman told The Vindicator.

Given that, we would urge the Trump administration to consider all the circumstances surrounding the tax-paying Valley businessman’s case before it takes the drastic step of throwing him out of the country.

Trump has begun meeting with Republican members of Congress to discuss immigration reform and the future of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, many of whom were brought to this country illegally as children.

Trump announced last September he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that protected them from deportation. However, he gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative fix.

As Congress deliberates, we urge Ryan and Portman to work with the leadership and the Trump administration to come up with a solution to Al Adi’s emergency.

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