Youngstown businessman Amer “Al” Adi Othman is reportedly on a hunger strike to protest the decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport him without a court hearing.
But if Adi and his family believe ICE officials will be swayed by such an act of self-sacrifice, they have badly misread the situation.
This case isn’t about giving a law-abiding, taxpaying, family man a fair shake. It’s about the unquestioned authority of the federal government with regard to immigration.
Immigration and customs officials are so powerful that they even thumbed their noses at U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th.
Two weeks ago, Portman, Ryan and others, including Tracey Winbush, vice chairwoman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, were able to secure a last-minute reprieve for Adi, who was being kicked out of the country Jan. 7.
He and his wife, Fidaa Musleh, were booked on a flight to Jordan, the downtown businessman’s homeland.
But, the deportation was put on hold.
The despair that had consumed Adi and his family turned to joy and hope. Finally, they believed, he would get to respond to the claims made by ICE in supporting the deportation order.
Thus, when the couple, accompanied by their lawyer, David Leopold of Cleveland, Ryan and Winbush, went to a meeting Tuesday morning in Cleveland with ICE officials they believed there was to be a sharing of information. They were wrong.
Adi, 57, was detained by ICE officials and placed in custody in Geauga County jail pending his deportation. The Mahoning Valley businessman has been battling the federal government for 20 years, but has yet to be given the opportunity to present his case in a court of law.
ICE confiscated his green card, thus stripping him of his permanent residency status, on the grounds that he had obtained it through a fraudulent first marriage in 1980.
The agency refused to change its position even after his first wife filed an affidavit that recanted her original contention that the marriage was a sham.
She said her initial statement about the marriage was made under duress.
But ICE officials stuck to their guns and began the process to bring about Adi’s deportation.
When it appeared his days were numbered, Ryan stepped in and introduced a special bill that held the deportation order in abeyance until all legal avenues were pursued.
Though the administration of former President Barack Obama gave members of Congress leeway to intercede on behalf of their constituents on immigration matters, President Donald Trump has taken a different approach.
The federal government is proceeding with deportations even if there is legislation pending in Congress on behalf of the deportees.
Thus, Al Adi’s only hope was to persuade immigration and customs officials to give him the chance to make his case before a judge.
But ICE contends that various courts, including those specializing in immigration law, reviewed the case and ruled that Adi is living in the U.S. illegally. He has been denied a new green card through his marriage to Fidaa Musleh, a naturalized citizen.
Placing him in a jail cell is clearly designed by ICE officials to deliver a stern message to the members of Congress who had the temerity to interfere with the deportation process: Don’t mess with us.
After Portman, Ryan and the other advocates succeeded in postponing Adi’s departure to Jordan, the story spread like wildfire through the country. Reaction from readers of The Vindicator, which first reported on Adi’s Jan. 7 deportation date, has largely been supportive of the downtown Youngstown businessman.
Nationally, the story has placed ICE in a negative light, which undoubtedly has caused officials to dig in their heels.
Congressman Ryan, who has taken an aggressive stand against President Trump’s immigration policies, had this to say about Tuesday’s proceedings:
“The arrest of Amer Othman is a shameful failure of justice. Treating an individual with no criminal record who poses zero flight risk like an animal flies in the face of American values Immigration and Customs Enforcement is supposedly defending.”
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, said it is “tragic” ICE did not give Adi the opportunity to say goodbye to his wife and daughters.
Schiavoni called on the president and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform “that treats our fellow human beings with dignity and respect.”