By Kalea Hall
When Amer “Al” Adi Othman’s flight lands in Jordan today, all he’ll have are the clothes on his back.
It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for the well-known downtown Youngstown businessman and his family.
Al Adi had called his wife, Fidaa Musleh, every morning since he has been in jail or prison since Jan. 16.
But Monday was a little different: Musleh didn’t receive a call, which made her wonder if he was still in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“All day we have been stressed out. ... Where is he?” she said.
It was just before 8 p.m. when Adi called his wife and daughters to tell them he was in Chicago awaiting a 9:45 p.m. flight to his native Jordan.
“They transferred him without telling anybody that he was leaving today,” Musleh said. “It’s a sad day for our country, for our family, for our community. I feel they used Gestapo tactics taking him without even notifying his family or telling anybody where he’s at.”
Musleh, with her daughters Lina and Rania Adi beside her, said she is a little relieved that he is no longer in prison, where he was on a hunger strike. Al was first detained at the Geauga County jail and then moved to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road in Youngstown.
“I am sad that this was such a cruel and inhumane way that they did it,” Musleh said of Al’s deportation.
Al, who owns Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli and the Circle Hookah and Bar, had planned to leave on his own Jan. 7, but before he left, he told his story. ICE called and told him not to leave but to come to the ICE office in Cleveland for a meeting Jan. 16.
Al’s wife, attorney and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, went with him and were shocked when he was taken into custody.
Al, 57, came to the U.S. at 19 on a student visa and settled in San Diego, where he met and married his first wife in 1980.
Seven months later, Al’s first wife filed for a green card for him, which he received. The two were separated in August 1981 and divorced in November of that year.
Al later moved to Youngstown and met Musleh. They have been married for 29 years. When they were first married, they left the country for three years, which invalidated his green card.
In 1990, his first wife signed an affidavit provided by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that claimed she married him so he could stay in the country after a student visa expired.
When Al returned to the U.S. with Musleh in 1992, it was on a visitor visa. After that, Musleh filed several petitions seeking a green card for him. Musleh’s first petition for Al’s green card – filed shortly after their return in 1992 – was denied in 2001.
In 2013, Ryan sponsored a private bill that prevented his deportation and granted him legal status. For a time, that prevented the Department of Homeland Security from deporting anyone who is a subject of pending legislation. That changed under President Donald J. Trump’s administration when deportations were no longer delayed.
“It is a sad day for [Al], his family and our entire community,” Ryan said in a statement. “In a highly irregular rebuke of Congressional authority by ICE, [Al] was ripped from his four daughters, his wife, and the country that he has called home for over 30 years. [Al] was a pillar of the community and brought commerce to a downtown that craved investment. He hired members of our community. He paid taxes. He did everything right. There are violent criminals walking the streets, yet our government wasted our precious resources incarcerating him.”
On Monday, ICE would not comment.
When Al arrives in Jordan, he will be greeted by his family – mother, several brothers and sisters and extended family. Before he left the U.S., he wasn’t able to say goodbye to his family here.
“Where are his rights as a human?” Lina said. “I know we are supposed to be happy. I know we are supposed to feel some kind of relief. I am ashamed to be a part of this country. This is just wrong. From Day One until now, this is just wrong.”
Lina, 24, is one of Musleh and Al’s four daughters. She has moved back home to help run her family’s businesses.
“I know that my dad started something in the community that no other person has started,” Lina said. “Every time I walk down the sidewalk, everyone knows who I am because of my father. That’s a legacy I want to keep going.”