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Adi, Family, Friends Toast His Deportation Stay

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The mood in the hookah lounge in the rear of the Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli yesterday afternoon was considerably more upbeat — an understatement — than it had been just two days earlier.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said owner Amer Adi Othman, known as Al Adi, who at least for the time being will remain in the United States.

A jubilant Adi joined family, friends and supporters Thursday afternoon in raising a glass of champagne in celebration of the news, delivered around 2:15 p.m., that a stay was granted, putting on hold his scheduled deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Adi said he had packed his bags and moved out of his house in preparation to leave the country Sunday with his wife of 29 years, Fidaa Musleh.

“It looked very dim. We even got rid of a lot of stuff at home, and we were ready to move,” Musleh said.

The stay of Adi’s deportation followed a mass of community support and phone calls by local leaders including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, and Tracey Winbush, vice-chairwoman of the Mahoning County Republican Party.

“It just showed that when communities stand together they can turn things around,” Adi said.

“We  worked it until the end, and we finally got some sympathetic ears in Washington to help make this happen,” Ryan said.

Ryan and Adi embrace after the congressman tells the businessman his deportation has been delayed pending receive a full hearing.

The congressman and his staff worked through the committee process in the House of Representatives to make the case that Adi hadn’t had the opportunity to have his day in court.

In 2013, Ryan introduced a “private bill” that, if approved, would have removed Adi from the deportation list and granted him legal status. In the past, ICE did not deport individuals who were the subjects of pending legislation, but ICE changed its policy under President Donald Trump. The ICE decision announced yesterday postpones the deportation, although Ryan could not say yesterday afternoon for how long.

“It gives him the opportunity to make his case,” Ryan said. “We think that he’s the kind of guy we want here in the United States.”

Adi fought 23 years to say in the United States, where he had lived since age 19, moving here from Amann, Jordan in 1979. The deportation threat stemmed from an earlier marriage that an administrative review by federal immigration officials determined was fraudulent. That determination was based in part on an affidavit – since recanted, an attorney representing Adi said Tuesday – signed by his first wife.

“Tim Ryan did it. He worked hard. He worked all the way from the White House to everybody,” Adi said. Winbush also was at his store for about three hours making calls, he said.

“You call the people that you know that might be able to help to make things happen,” Winbush said. “All the work that we put in the campaigns getting people elected, this is what it’s really all about — being able to make the phone call and say I’ve got a friend who needs a hand and this is wrong, and making it right.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s office spoke with Ryan and his staff was in touch with Adi’s attorney, Portman’s spokeswoman, Emily Benavides, said in a statement. “We have reached out to ICE about this case,” she said.

Family and friends cheered Adi’s reprieve in the lounge. Among those was Lana Adi, one of the businessman’s four daughters. News of the stay came as a complete shock, she said.

“We thought it was a joke at first. That’s how shocking it was. We didn’t believe it until Tim Ryan walked in and said he’s staying,” she remarked.

“It’s just really overwhelming,” she said. “We’re really thankful for everybody in the community that did so much to help us.”

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown called the decision “a plus for the city of Youngstown.” Adi is “a prime example of the Youngstown renaissance.”

Moussa Kassis, international trade adviser at the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Youngstown State University, had been at Downtown Circle a day earlier to help plan Adi’s farewell party, which was to take place Saturday.

A friend of Adi for 40 years, he rushed to the store from the YSU campus yesterday as soon as he heard the news.

“The immigration system needs to be fixed … strategically fixed from the ground up,” Kassis said.

Patrick Kerrigan, executive director of the Oak Hill Collaborative, joined those celebrating the stay.

“It’s nice to see the system work,” he said. “It’s not over yet, but we’re pretty excited.”

Julia Amoratorio of Youngstown – friends with Adi’s oldest daughter, Haneen – just two days earlier was lamenting the impending deportation of a man she considered a second father. Yesterday she dashed into the shop after hearing the news.

“This is huge,” Amoratorio said.

The situation highlights the need for comprehensive immigration reform, Ryan said.

“There’s been a false choice presented to the American people that you either have strong borders or you have comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. The reality of it is you can do both,” the congressman said.

The show of community support, Adi said, will help his case. “This case specifically is not an immigration case, it’s a human case.”

Pictured above: Al Adi, his friends and family, celebrate the stay of his deportation.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.