Ryan Spars with Carlson over Adi Deportation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s decision to leave his guest seat vacant at last night’s State of the Union Address drew fire even before the speech.

In an often heated exchange before President Donald Trump’s address to Congress (WATCH VIDEO), Fox News host Tucker Carlson challenged Ryan, D-13 Ohio, about why the congressman chose to recognize Amer Adi Othman rather than victims of opioid abuse in his district.

Ryan announced Tuesday afternoon that he was leaving his guest seat at the State of the Union Address vacant in honor of Othman – also known as Al Adi – as well as others who are being “heartlessly targeted” for deportation by the Trump Administration.

Adi, the owner of Downtown Circle Convenience & Deli, was deported to Jordan Monday night, about two weeks after being taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Since 2013, Ryan had repeatedly introduced legislation to prevent Adi’s deportation and grant him legal status, and on Jan. 18 a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee advanced the legislation.

Under prior administrations, such action would have halted deportation proceedings while an investigation took place, but on Jan. 25 ICE announced it would move forward with removing Adi from the country, despite the subcommittee’s request.

Citing a pair of Ryan’s constituents who had died from drug overdoses, Carlson questioned why the congressman was keeping his guest seat lopen for someone who had been deported “for fraud” – referring to an administrative decision that Adi’s first marriage was fraudulent — rather than the thousands of Ohioans who died from overdoses or for those in danger of losing their pensions, another group he and Ryan discussed during the segment.

Members of Congress have been working “real hard” to get President Trump not to just declare the drug issue an emergency but to put “real resources” into prevention and treatment efforts. “What President Trump tried to do with his health care bill was throwing people off health care so they would not have the opportunity to get the type of treatment and recovery they need,” Ryan said.

Ryan also cited the role that Adi had played in the “renaissance” now taking place in downtown Youngstown, opening his business there at a time when others were reluctant to do so, and his role as a husband with an American wife and a father of four American daughters.

“You think it’s a good idea, with a case that has a lot of discrepancy in it, that this man not have a fair hearing of the facts, which is all we asked for,” Ryan said.

Carlson responded that he has “no trouble” believing that Adi is “a great guy,” as are many illegal immigrants.

“What you’re describing is a sad situation. There are a lot of sad situations in Ohio right now – 4,000 people in Ohio died of drug ODs, 400 were deported,” the Fox News host said. “By a factor of 10 to 1, drug ODs are a bigger deal and you’re spending your time and the symbolic power you have to honor someone who was deported rather than one of our constituents who died of a drug OD and I don’t understand why.”

Ryan fired back at Carlson and others criticizing him for his decision. “I’m not taking a back seat to you or anybody else on the opioid epidemic,” he said. “You tell your president and your party to fund the damn bills we try to put forth to make sure that these people can get treatment and recover.”

At that point, Carlson ended the interview. “We know what your priorities are,” he said.

“We know where your priorities are, Tucker,” Ryan responded.

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