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By GRAIG GRAZIOSI
Amer “Al” Adi Othman has not forgotten Youngstown.
A year has passed since Adi had a high profile battle with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials that ended with his deportation to Jordan.
Adi, the former owner of Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli and Circle Hookah, downtown, has been in Amman ever since.
Thursday, his daughter, Lina Adi, sent a letter from her father to local media. In it, Adi speaks to the local community and to U.S. citizens at large.
Al Adi Letter
Amer "Al" Adi Othman, the local business owner who was deported last year after a public battle with ICE, writes a letter thanking his friends and supporters and calling for better treatment of immigrants on the anniversary of his deportation.
“It’s hard to believe it has been one year since I was deported from the United States. On Jan. 29, 2018, I was taken out of my cell early in the morning, driven from Youngstown to Cleveland, where I stayed in another cell at the ICE headquarters for three hours. From there they took me to the Cleveland airport on a flight to Chicago and from Chicago to Amman, Jordan, after almost 40 years of being in the United States of America,” Adi wrote. “The question that remains is why was I deported? Why did this happen to me? And why does it continue to happen to so many immigrants?”
In the year since Adi’s deportation, immigration has persisted as a central issue for the administration of President Donald Trump.
Deportations have increased 13 percent since 2017. Data provided by ICE reports the agency deported 145,262 convicted criminals who were in the country illegally. CoreCivic, a private prison operator with a location in Youngstown that houses detained immigrants, reported its third quarter revenue was $462.7 million, a 4.5 percent increase over 2017 during the same quarter.
In December alone, two children died in U.S. Border Patrol custody and the U.S. government was subject to the longest shutdown in American history over the funding of the Trump administration’s proposed $5 billion border wall.
“Whenever I hear people talking about immigration as a problem, I am confused. Immigrants are what make up the United States of America. From Donald Trump himself, to his wife, to everyone who holds an American passport, somewhere down the line, your existence here in this country originated from an immigrant. Unless you are Native American. Therefore, to be against immigrants is essentially to be against what the United States really is. To be against immigrants is to be against the United States,” Adi wrote.
Though he does recount his own experiences at the hands of ICE in the letter, Adi also draws attention to the broader treatment of immigrants and calls for change.
“As you read this, tens of thousands of families are being split apart due to the insane and inhumane state of immigration in this country,” Adi wrote. “The news is filled with talk about this border wall, which would be built with taxpayer money, and which has no real meaning or purpose whatsoever, aside from instigating white nationalist support in the name of control for the administration. We must realize what is going on and we must do better.”
Fidaa Musleh, who is married to Adi, was left to manage the family’s businesses and care for her remaining family in the U.S. alone.
In September, the family decided to sell Downtown Circle and Circle Hookah. Shortly after, Musleh left to join Adi permanently in Jordan.
Adi’s letter, though serious, is not all severe. He also thanked the people of Youngstown and beyond who supported him and his family during their time in the U.S.
“Finding the right words is difficult because it has meant so much to me. Big and warm thank you to my outstanding lawyer David Leopold, Congressman Tim Ryan, to Mayor [Jamael] Tito Brown, to the members of city council and to Tracey Winbush. To the hundreds and thousands of people who stood and showed their support through demonstrations in the street or by putting on events in local churches and community centers, or by speaking to the media. Especially those special letters I received from my cell,” Adi wrote. “Thank you to our community for really coming together. It was really the silver lining of the nightmare.”
To read Adi’s letter in full, look for this story on vindy.com.