Government

Adi’s Family Vows to Continue Fight

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The wife of Al Adi pledged to fight for justice against a “corrupt” government on behalf of her husband, even after his expected deportation.

Fidaa Musleh, who has been married to Adi for 29 years, met with him Thursday afternoon, hours after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the downtown businessman would be deported.

“We condemn the decision that ICE took, even though we never expected anything more,” Musleh said. Joined by family members and supporters, she addressed media outlets across the road from the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, where Adi has been held since last Friday.

“Our fight will continue for the sake of my husband” and for justice, not only for Adi but “the people that don’t have voices,” she added. “We will continue to fight. We will not stop.”

Adi, also known as Amer Othman, is the owner of Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli.

ICE’s decision followed a “comprehensive review” of Adi’s case, according to an email from the agency earlier in the afternoon. The review included “careful consideration” of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security request that the Department of Homeland Security review his case.

The House committee’s request was expected to delay Adi’s deportation by at least six months, allowing him to make his case as to why he should be permitted to stay in the country.

Over the past decade, Adi’s case has undergone “exhaustive judicial review at multiple levels of the nation’s courts, including before the immigration courts, federal appeals courts and U.S. district court,” according to the email. Each review held that Adi “does not have a legal basis” to remain in the country. He will remain in ICE custody pending deportation.

“They can fabricate all the stories they want, but the truth is it’s a corrupt government,” Musleh said.

Adi and Musleh had planned to leave the country Jan. 7 and return to his native Jordan until his deportation order was cancelled Jan. 4. Last week, when he reported to an ICE office near Cleveland for what was believed to be a routine meeting about his case, he was taken into custody for deportation.

“We were leaving Jan. 7 using our own money,” Musleh said. “Our bags were packed. We were on our way out. Why are they doing this? They are trying to make an example of him. I don’t know why.”

ICE has lied and deceived the family since Jan. 4, she said, when the deportation was halted. She also complained that Adi is being kept in solitary confinement for no reason, and that during their visit she and their daughters could not visit with him in person.

“They have him in a cage and they put us on a phone in front of a glass to talk to him,” she said.

“It’s not fair. It’s not. He didn’t do anything. Everybody else got to sit with their families,” said Lina Adi, one of the couple’s four daughters, who was visibly distraught through the 10-minute meeting with journalists.

Musleh said her husband – who has been on a hunger strike for 10 days, despite an ICE report that he had taken food – is in deteriorating health and has lost 20 pounds. She vowed to hold ICE and the federal government accountable if anything happened to him.

“It’s inhumane treatment,” Lina Adi said. “He’s not an animal.” Following this, the world now has “this mental picture” of how “corrupt” ICE and the federal government are, she said.

If Adi is going to be deported anyway, Musleh urged ICE to let him go so he can see his ill mother, who he has not seen in 20 years.

Immigration attorney David Leopold, who has represented Adi for several years, said Adi suspected Wednesday night that something was going to happen based on ICE representatives’ behavior, though he declined to go into detail.

“This is extremely disappointing,” Leopold said during a phone interview Thursday evening. Adi has been active in his community and “given back much more than he has taken,” he noted.

Adi’s impending deportation has sown “a lot of chaos” in Youngstown, including among his family members, his employees who are wondering whether they are going to have jobs and the community at large, Leopold said.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve seen cruel, I’ve seen really cruel and now I’ve seen [Adi’s case]”, he said.

After the news conference, supporters and other family members joined Adi’s wife and daughters at the Circle Hookah and Bar, attached to the convenience store.

“I’m really shocked and sad,” Moussa Kassis, a longtime friend, said. Word of ICE’s decision hit him like “a ton of bricks,” he said.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, who last weekend visited Adi with state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-33 Boardman, said she suspected something was amiss when an ICE deputy field director yesterday denied their request for a follow-up visit Thursday.

The denial letter characterized their earlier visit as an “exception and accommodation to existing visitation protocols,” although it invited the state officials to submit future requests.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s so disturbing. It’s so un-American,” she said. The downtown businessman “was running toward Youngstown with open arms when people were running away,” she said.

The situation is a reminder that voting has consequences, she said.

First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver lamented Adi’s “impossible situation.” Elected officials are supposed to represent the people and the public here “made a pretty good stand” that they wanted Adi to remain.

“You’ve got people that are doing the right thing and these government procedures are put in place, and all they end up doing is tearing apart a family,” Oliver said. “It’s a shame because you’ve got people who are a benefit to the community.”

Lina Adi, outside the prison earlier, suggested the family might not want to remain in the United States. “We’ll all go home with him. We don’t want to be here anymore. We’re done,” she said.

Later, at the Circle Hookah, Musleh – in an understatement – said the family was “going through a rough time” and would take things “one day at a time.” After the dust settles they will determine what is best for the family, she said.

Pictured: Outside Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, Fidaa Musleh and Lina Adi – the wife and daughter of Downtown Circle owner Al Adi – speak to the media following the announcement Adi will be deported.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.