Youngstown businessman Amer “Al” Adi Othman’s imprisonment by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has highlighted the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
And if blame is to be assigned, think back to 2013 when Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives refused to even schedule a hearing on a bill that had made it through the Senate on a significant 68-32 bipartisan vote.
Unfortunately in the House, partisan politics trumped urgently needed public policy. The Senate was in the hands of Democrats and there was a Democratic president, Barack Obama, in the White House.
House Republicans led by then Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, weren’t about to give Democrats a win they could carry into the 2014 midterm election.
Thus, the most significant overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in a generation died on the legislative vine.
It is noteworthy that in the Senate, the so-called “Gang of Eight” – four Democrats and four Republicans – had drafted the bill, which had the support of President Obama and former Republican President George W. Bush.
Bush’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also signed on, as did Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the most prominent Hispanic politicians in the country.
Fourteen Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in passing the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.”
Sadly for Youngstown businessman Adi and other immigrants hoping to become citizens, the bill was dead-on-arrival in the House.
The legislation offered a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who are in this country illegally and would have tightened border security by doubling the size of the border patrol and constructing a 700-mile-long high-tech security fence.
The bill provided a 13-year path to citizenship for the unauthorized immigrants in the country, as well as tough border-security provisions that had to be in place before the immigrants gained legal status, the New York Times reported in 2013.
However, Republicans in the House made it clear they opposed giving unauthorized immigrants a chance to become citizens.
Thus, the massive reform in immigration laws sought by most Americans was shelved.
The anti-immigrant sentiment embraced by a goodly number of native- born Americans received a full-throated endorsement when Donald J. Trump promised during the 2016 presidential campaign to deport all illegals.
Trump, the billionaire real-estate developer from New York City, won the Republican nomination by appealing to the basest instincts of the GOP electorate.
In the general election, his “Make America Great Again” campaign blamed illegal immigrants for the economic turmoil experienced by many blue-collar workers, including those who traditionally vote Democratic.
Trump, a political newcomer, talked about launching a massive roundup of undocumented individuals in the U.S.
Although thoughtful Republicans and Democrats harshly criticized Trump for his ridiculous stance, his harsh words struck a chord.
Trump ordered a nationwide crackdown on illegals shortly after he was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2017.
The case of Youngstowner Adi, who came to the U.S. about four decades ago and is a tax-paying, law-abiding, family man, is a perfect illustration of what President Trump’s immigration policy is fomenting.
Adi is behind bars in the private prison in Youngstown awaiting final disposition of his case. ICE has ordered his deportation to his native Jordan, but congressional intervention has resulted in a stay of the order.
Adi was a permanent resident as a result of a first marriage, but ICE withdrew his permanent residency status on the grounds that he married an American citizen just to get a green card.
Although his current wife is a naturalized citizen and they have four children, ICE has denied an application for another green card.
Adi has not been given the chance to defend himself in court, and ICE has shrugged off an affidavit filed by his first wife saying that her initial claim that the marriage was fake was made under duress.
Adi is on a hunger strike to protest ICE’s treatment. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who has been one of the leaders in the effort to not only secure Adi’s release but to prevent his deportation, is working in Congress to make sure the businessman has his day in court.