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City, family hearten Adi back from deportation

Businessman plans to open deli, apartments downtown

Businessman Amer “Al” Adi, deported in 2018 and recently allowed to return, happily holds his grandson, Yazan, 1 1/2 years old, while in downtown Youngstown on Saturday. Adi plans to open a new business downtown....Staff photo / David Skonick

YOUNGSTOWN — Reunited with his entire family for the first time since he was deported in January 2018, Youngstown businessman Amer “Al” Adi was so overcome with emotion that he had to fight back the tears.

In his first interview since his return to the United States, Adi said: “The idea of breaking up a family and taking any member of the family forcefully and putting him somewhere where he can’t be with his family is horrible. It’s terrible. Our background, our culture, our way of thinking — we’re family people.”

He became choked up when talking.

Adi spoke Saturday outside 26 N. Phelps St. with his wife, Fidaa Musleh; his four daughters, Rania, Lina, Haneen and Lana; along with Yazan, his 1 1/2-year-old grandson.

Adi, who owned the Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli, and the Circle Hookah and Bar, both on West Federal Street, was deported in January 2018 to his native Jordan after a battle with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement even though he’d lived in this country for 39 years.

Adi said he was granted a “humanitarian visa.” He returned Sept. 1 to Ohio.

Saturday was the first time he was reunited with all four of his daughters.

“It’s an amazing feeling especially after what happened,” Lina said. “We’re super excited to have our dad back.”

Adi said: “We’re living a great moment with the family. I really want to thank everybody in my bigger family, which is Youngstown, that did a tremendous job, a great job, in supporting my case and supporting me. I felt the love all over the world, wherever I went.”

Adi said he’s in Youngstown to stay.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “Before I left, I told you this is my town, and I have all the right to live in this country. I’ve been here for years and years and years. I’ve been here almost 40 years in the United States. I’m here back in Youngstown. I will not go anywhere else but Youngstown.”

Asked what it was like to be in Jordan, Adi said: “Hell. It wasn’t that good. It wasn’t that good.”

Adi said his attorney, David Leopold of Cleveland, along with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, and Michael Morley, an attorney and Ryan adviser, never stopped working to get him home.

“We worked on this since Day 1,” Adi said. “We got a humanitarian visa, and we’re working on getting our green card. It’s temporary right now, but just the fact that they gave me the OK to come home is something positive, and it was definitely good. I have no doubt I’m staying here. Definitely. It was based on a humanitarian effort because they breaking up the family in this way is something horrible so I think they rethought all of this and felt bad and let me come back.”

While in Jordan with his wife, who voluntarily left to be with him, Adi said the couple used the FaceTime app to talk to his grandson every day.

Seeing Yazan in person is something “I can’t explain. It is amazing. It’s a feeling grandparents and parents know what it is. It was touching. It was amazing. It was incredible.”

Reached Saturday, Morley said he regularly kept in touch with Adi and helped with the legal issues.

“I monitored and coordinated the efforts,” he said. “It was pretty intense during the last couple of days. He’s been a family friend for over 20 years. I’m thrilled by this. It’s one of the happiest days I’ve experienced in years. I’m happy for him, happy for the family and the entire community.”

Adi was jailed in January 2018 after an immigration status hearing and deported later that month after ICE refused to hear an appeal despite Congress requesting a review. His case was never heard in court.

A statement that his first marriage was a sham led to his deportation even though his ex-wife recanted that claim and said it was made under duress during questioning by immigration agents.

His family sold the deli and the attached hookah bar in September 2018 after Adi’s deportation.

But he and his wife retained ownership of 26 N. Phelps St., the former Pig Iron Press business they purchased in 2016.

Standing outside the business Saturday, Adi plans to open a deli on the first floor and apartments on the upper two floors with a possible cigar bar.

“I’ve got a lot on my plate,” he said. “I’ve got to get busy.”

dskolnick@vindy.com

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