By Kalea Hall
When Youngstown businessman Amer “Al” Adi Othman arrived for his meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday, there was little sign that the session would be anything but routine.
With his wife, Fidaa Musleh, attorney David Leopold and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, the businessman known locally as Al Adi appeared all smiles when stopped by a Vindicator reporter for a picture and a brief statement.
“I hope we get Amer his day in court,” Ryan said.
Within a short time, the picture and the statement would seem a cruel reminder of the hope they had.
ICE officials greeted Adi, 57, with a declaration that he would be taken into custody to await deportation back to Jordan – where he left at 19.
“They can’t give us one single reason for why they are doing this,” Musleh said Tuesday outside of the ICE office.
Asked for a response, ICE released this statement to The Vindicator: “Over the last decade, Mr. Othman’s immigration case has undergone exhaustive judicial review at multiple levels of the nation’s courts, including before the immigration courts, federal appeals courts and U.S. district court. In each review, the courts have uniformly held that Mr. Othman does not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S. Mr. Othman will remain in ICE custody pending removal from the United States.”
Musleh and Adi were shocked.
Adi had a plane ticket and his luggage packed and was going to leave for Jordan on Jan. 7, but ICE called and told him not to leave yet and to come in Tuesday for what they thought would be a routine hearing.
Musleh offered to buy her husband a new ticket home Tuesday, but ICE refused.
“They want to take him and put him in jail to humiliate him and to dirty him up as if he did something [wrong],” she said.
Musleh was only able to talk to her husband of 29 years on a phone, seeing him through glass.
He told her to take care of their girls: Haneen Adi, 26, Lina Adi, 24, Rania Adi, 19, and Lana Adi, 18.
“My husband is one of the best men around,” Musleh said. “He takes care of his family, he is a good businessman, he’s a good community man. I just can’t understand it.”
Adi is now in the Geauga County jail and is on a hunger strike.
When Adi came to the U.S. at 19, he settled in San Diego and worked at a diner, where he met his first wife. The two were married about 21/2 years and through her, he applied for his green card and received it.
After they divorced, Adi moved to Youngstown and met and married Musleh. Adi and his second wife left the country for three years and when they returned, his green card was taken. In the early 1990s, she applied for Adi to receive a new green card, and the application was denied because a claim was made that Adi’s first marriage was fraudulent.
Adi has fought against this for years while building a family and a business. Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli is considered a key to the revitalization of downtown Youngstown. Adi also owns the Circle Hookah and Bar downtown.
In 2007, Adi’s first wife went to an attorney and filed an affidavit recanting the statement she signed in 1990 stating that the marriage was a fraud. She claimed that she signed the statement under duress.
“I think what is really important is Amer Adi never had his day in court on that issue,” Leopold said.
Leopold has worked on Adi’s case for years and has had clients taken into custody before – but said Tuesday’s events were “a new low.”
“As a lawyer, I am absolutely stunned and baffled at the amazing cruelty and the injustice of locking up a man who had paid for his own ticket to go home, who had made arrangements with ICE to meet them at the airport,” he said.
Leopold saw ICE’s move as an exertion of power.
“They made a mean-spirited, nasty decision I think for no other reason than to humiliate him,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve seen them take someone into custody just because they have the power to.”
Leopold said they would not stop fighting for Adi.
Ryan and Mahoning County Republican Party vice chairwoman Tracey Winbush were both distraught over Tuesday’s events and still want to fight for Adi’s day in court.
“There are violent undocumented people in our society today that we are not going after, because we are going after a 35-year businessman who is married to a U.S. citizen with four U.S. kids who is the greatest guy you’d ever meet in your life,” Ryan said.
“Does that make any sense? Taxpayers should be outraged at what’s happening here and the lack of humanity.”
In 2013, Ryan sponsored a private bill on Adi’s behalf that prevented his deportation and granted him legal status. The bill was not a law, but for a time prevented the Department of Homeland Security from deporting anyone who was a subject of pending legislation until last year, when the rules changes under President Donald Trump’s administration.
“He has never been illegal in the U.S. and we need to say that,” Winbush said. “This is just a case of a bureaucracy that’s broken, and they don’t care – and that’s what is wrong.”