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Adi Deported, Family and Ryan Vow to Continue Fight

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Amer Adi Othman was deported last night, nearly two weeks after being taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Members of his family reported that Othman – locally known as Al Adi – contacted them from Chicago around 8 p.m. to let them know he was waiting to board a 9:45 p.m. flight to Amman, Jordan.

Adi owns Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli.

“It’s just another sad day in our country – a sad day for our community, a sad day for everybody that believes in human rights,” lamented Fidaa Musleh, Adi’s wife of 29 years.

The country “just lost a great human being,” she said. “It’s their loss and I don’t think they deserve somebody like him anyways.”

Musleh said she last saw Adi Jan. 25, when she and family members visited him at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, where he was being held.

That same day, ICE announced that Adi would be deported, despite a congressional request for a review of Adi’s case that had been expected to delay his deportation by six months.

“He didn’t get to say goodbye [in person] to his girls. He didn’t get to say goodbye to me or the community or anybody,” Musleh said.

Musleh grew concerned Monday when Adi didn’t call in the morning as he normally did, and worried that he was again being transferred to another site.

Adi was moved to the prison on Hubbard Road on Jan. 19 for medical monitoring three days after going on a hunger strike. He was initially being held at Geauga County Jail.

When she hadn’t heard from her husband yesterday, Musleh called their immigration attorney, David Leopold, and ICE, but “nobody knew anything,” she said. She decried the “inhumane and cruel way” he was being treated. ICE did not respond to a request earlier in the day for an update of the case’s status.

She spoke to Adi for 15 minutes when he called from the airport. During the call, he asked her to thank everyone in the community for the support he received throughout “this hard ordeal,” she said.

“We didn’t know it was going to be the last time we saw him when we went to visit him,” said Lina Adi, one of the couple’s four daughters. “They definitely knew they were doing this but they didn’t give us any kind of indication that was going to be the last time we were going to see him or talk to him.”

Adi and Musleh had planned to leave the country Jan. 7 following an earlier deportation order that was canceled Jan. 4. He was taken into custody and told he was going to be deported when he went to an ICE office near Cleveland Jan. 16 for what he believed was going to be a routine meeting regarding the resolution of his status.

Now, three weeks after the couple had planned to leave the country at their own expense, ICE is flying Adi to Jordan at taxpayer expense, “which is just insane,” Lina Adi said. Although relieved that her father is out of prison, she is sad and angry that the family didn’t get the opportunity to say their goodbyes to him.

“There was no reason for these last 12 days for him to be in prison,” she said. “A couple weeks prior to this, we were ready to say our goodbyes. He was leaving and now they had to turn it around and make it so inhumane.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, decried ICE’s “highly irregular rebuke of congressional authority” and pledged to continue his efforts on behalf of Adi and his family.

In 2013, Ryan introduced legislation requesting Adi’s removal from the deportation list and granting of legal status. A policy that prevented the deportation of people who are the subjects of pending legislation was reversed under President Donald Trump, who as a candidate and since assuming the presidency has taken a hard line on immigration.

In a statement, Ryan called Adi a “pillar of the community [who] brought commerce to a downtown that craved investment.” While there are “violent criminals walking the streets,” the administration “wasted precious resources” incarcerating the Youngstown businessman.

“I hope President Trump comes to realize that when his words become public policy in places like Youngstown, families like Amer’s are ripped apart,” Ryan said. “I am deeply saddened and disappointed in this outcome. I’m sad that America and the American presidency has become a place where politics outweighs doing what is right.”

Musleh said she intends to join Adi in Jordan, although she was uncertain when. She said the family will continue the legal battle on behalf of her husband as well as people who don’t have the legal representation or community support Adi does.

“An alien who is granted relief through the enactment of a private immigration bill [such as the one Ryan introduced on Adi’s behalf] can lawfully travel back to the United States,” an ICE spokesman said last week.

Even with such legislation, whether Adi will return remains to be seen, Musleh acknowledged. He needs to recover from his hunger strike – last week she said he had lost 20 pounds and his health was failing as a result – and he plans to visit his mother, who is in poor health.

“At this point, I don’t know. We’re going to let the dust settle and then take a deep breath,” she said. “I’ll talk to him and see what he wants us to do, but the fight must continue for a lot of people in his situation.”

Pictured: Al Adi called his wife, Fidaa Musleh, Monday evening to tell her he was being deported.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.