Government

Supporters Turn Out for Downtown Businessman Slated for Deportation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The wife of local businessman Amer Adi Othman – known to the community as Al Adi – says the United States government lured him into their offices in Cleveland on Tuesday just so officials could take him into custody.

“The government tricked him,” Fidaa Musleh told reporters and more than 70 supporters and family members at the Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli. “They asked us to come in. Not in a million years did I think they would take him into custody. He has not done anything wrong.”

Adi, owner of the Downtown Circle, was placed in custody Tuesday morning by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, just 12 days after ICE announced it would stay the businessman’s deportation, which was scheduled for Jan. 7.

Musleh, in a very emotional statement, told friends that she didn’t have a chance to hug her husband goodbye, and officials didn’t allow him the opportunity to say goodbye to his four children.

“I can’t believe people could be so cruel,” Musleh said. “I didn’t think it was possible to be so inhumane.”

There was no explanation as to why Adi, who was voluntarily willing to return to his native Jordan on Jan. 7, was placed under arrest, his wife remarked. “They’ve given us no explanation, no timeline, no nothing,” she said, noting immigration officials told her that this was not a decision made at the regional level.

“That’s what they told us, that this was not a decision made in Cleveland – this was a decision made in Washington D.C.,” Musleh said. “They tried to humiliate him.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, attorney David Leopold, and Tracey Winbush, vice chairwoman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, accompanied Adi and his wife to the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn Heights for the meeting.

But what was expected to be a routine check-in quickly turned sour when Adi was abruptly taken into custody, shocking his friends and family, Musleh said. “It’s a sad day in America.”

Adi’s youngest daughter, Rania, received a phone call from her mother yesterday morning telling her that her father was in jail. “I started crying. He didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “He really didn’t deserve that.”

Adi and Musleh have four daughters.

Officials have not informed the family of when Adi would be deported. A statement issued by ICE declared that Adi “would remain in ICE custody pending removal from the United States.”

Adi’s scheduled deportation Jan. 7 followed a more than 20-year battle to remain in the country. Ryan has introduced legislation requesting that Othman’s case be reviewed in order to clear a path to citizenship for him. Under previous administrations, ICE has refused to act on cases that are related to pending legislation.

However, the Trump administration has abandoned that practice, leaving Othman vulnerable to deportation. On Jan. 4, just days before Othman was to be deported, ICE placed the deportation on hold after the intervention of Ryan, Winbush, and the office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

“I witnessed firsthand the destructive consequences of President Trump’s willfully negligent immigration policies,” Ryan said Tuesday. “A country that punishes those who wish to contribute will not find prosperity.”

Musleh said she doesn’t understand that since Adi was already prepared to voluntarily leave the country – the couple had purchased two plane tickets to Jordan and prepared to leave Jan. 7 – that it was necessary to take him into custody.

Adi is incarcerated in the Geauga County jail awaiting deportation, Musleh said. She said he’s begun a hunger strike that will continue until he is released.

“I’m hoping they will release him in a few days,” she said. “We don’t know.”

Regardless, she said that Adi would be deported. Once that occurs, it would be very difficult to bring him back into the country. “We thought we were hopeful, but once he leaves, there’s no way he’s going to come back.”

Jerica Day, an employee at the Downtown Circle, said that Adi is a wonderful man who is known for his compassion. “This is just such a shame. Today, I’m very disheartened to say that I’m an American because that’s not how we treat others,” she said. “He’s one of the most selfless people you know.”

“Amer is a great man,” echoed Ike Omran, a longtime friend and supporter of Adi. “He’s a good businessman and everybody loved Amer. This immigration is a broken system. We are in shock.”

About 70 supporters gathered at the Downtown Circle to voice their support for the businessman, who Omran said was willing to take a risk and invest his money in downtown Youngstown, and helped rejuvenate the central business district.

“People like Amer should stay,” Omran said. “He’s more American than anyone I know.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.