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UPDATE: Ohio’s Amer Adi Remains in Detention Despite Judiciary Chairman Asking ICE to Stay His Deportation

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Last Friday, Youngstown businessman Amer Numan Barhoum Adi Othman (“Al Adi”), 57, was transferred to a federal prison after commencing a hunger strike following his unexpected arrest by the Cleveland ICE office. Hundreds of people also marched on Saturday and Sunday in support of his freedom. “We’re in fear of his life,” Adi’s daughter, Lina, said before the rally.

The Ohio father of four U.S.-citizen children has been cruelly caught in a back-and-forth game with ICE for weeks. ICE had previously ordered Adi deported by Jan. 7 of this year, even though a private bill had been filed asking ICE to let him stay. Just before his deportation date, ICE told him he didn’t have to leave, but asked him to check in Jan. 16. When Adi checked in on January 16, ICE detained him, an apparent reversal of their decision to let him stay. In detention, he began his hunger strike, after which he was transferred to a federal prison. Adi has lived in the United States for almost four decades and has been married since 1979 to his wife, Fidaa Musleh, an American citizen.

Said Fidda Musleh, his wife, in a written statement:

Al, who had been willing to voluntarily depart two weeks ago, is now behind bars in a county jail for an undetermined period of time. ICE officials could not explain what change of circumstances brought about this cruel and humiliating gesture. Al posed no flight risk, reported to each and every immigration meeting and had no criminal record.

Adi originally became an ICE target when old records suggested that his first marriage was a union of convenience for immigration purposes. But his first wife, Linda Adi — who carries his name to this day — says she felt scared and pressured into signing a misleading statement when two immigration officers knocked on her door early one morning in April 1990. Adi’s ex-wife later recanted the statement and declared in a sworn statement they married for love but the marriage didn’t last. Linda Adi also never recalled receiving a copy of the signed statement.

After Adi’s sudden detention by ICE on January 16, Fidaa expressed dismay and shock by the cruel “trick” played by the enforcement agents, since they had seemingly just granted Adi a deportation reprieve. She said ICE didn’t provide her a chance to say good-bye to her husband. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), who accompanied Adi to the Jan. 16 check-in along with Adi’s immigration attorney David Leopold and Vice Chair of the Mahoning County Republican Party Tracey Winbush, described the scene as “appalling”.

Ryan questioned the Christian values of the Trump Administration and their treatment of immigrants like Adi. He said he hopes those who believe it’s a good idea to care about love, compassion and fairness can start living those values. “This is a perfect example of how we’re not treating people like the rhetoric says we [should be] treating people,” he said in a recent video.

This is the president’s brazen racism being made into policy and practice. It’s disgusting,” said immigration attorney David Leopold.

Highlighting the economic contributions of Adi, who has been called a “pioneer for [Youngstown’s] downtown renaissance” and whose small business was recognized for helping to revitalize the city’s downtown district, Tracey Winbush a Republican recognized the value of “tax-paying productive people who want to stay in America.” She further recalled the recent celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the idea that people should be judged on their character and not the color of their skin. “If they’ll do it to him, what will do they do to me?”

“If this is what happens to somebody who shows up with their congressman, imagine the tens of thousands of people who show up without a lawyer, without a congressman,” Ryan said in a local NBC interview. “How do they get treated? We’re a better country than this.”

Ryan sponsored a private immigration bill (H.R. 1237) to grant Adi legal permanent residence status, which the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security approved. This bill would grant Adi a six-month stay pending U.S. Department of Homeland Security review; however, for unknown reasons and despite community protests, Adi currently remains in prison.

It’s not clear how long Adi will remain in custody before ICE frees him or deports him back to Jordan.