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Palestinian-American businessman, 57, is arrested by ICE in Cleveland, shocking supporters

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When Amer Othman Al Adi arrived at Cleveland’s federal immigration offices on Tuesday morning for what he thought to be a routine check-in, agents with the Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agency immediately detained him, wrenching him from the arms of Fidaa, his wife of 29 years.

Today, the 57-year-old Palestinian-American business owner sits in the Geauga County jail awaiting deportation — the first time Adi has seen the inside of a jail cell in his three decades living in the United States.

“[ICE] arrested him like he was a criminal. Usually criminals have to do something wrong,” Lina Adi, the second oldest of the family’s four children told me.

No charges have been filed to warrant his arrest and Khaalid H. Walls, ICE spokesperson for the Northeastern region, which includes Ohio, would not say on what grounds he was detained nor the anticipated length of Adi’s incarceration.

Less than two weeks ago, Amer and Fidaa had been preparing to voluntarily leave the country for Jordan, cooperating with a January 7 deadline issued by immigration authorities in September. As we reported, Adi received a last minute stay of deportation much to the relief of his family and community.

In the following days, the Mayor of Youngstown declared January 6th Amer “Al” Adi Othman Day in recognition of his years of dedicated service to the city; Congressman Tim Ryan, who has supported Adi’s fight to remain in the country by introducing a “private bill” into Congress on his behalf every year since 2013, celebrated what appeared a victory along with friends and family at Adi’s Downtown Circle Hookah Bar.

Since Adi’s arrest, his family and supporters have scrambled for answers and fervently advocated for his release.

Speaking to reporters outside the immigration facility, immigrant rights lawyer David Leopold said he could hardly believe what had just happened.

“This is a man who has played by the rules ever since he arrived in the United States. In the last several years, he has jumped through every hoop that ICE asked him to jump through. He came voluntarily to the ICE office today, accompanied by Rep. Ryan and myself, for what was supposed to be a routine check-in, only to be thrown into a jail cell and told he would be deported by force,” Leopold said.

“It is important to remember that Mr. Adi was set to leave the U.S. with his wife two weeks ago. He had bought a ticket and made arrangements to voluntarily meet ICE at the airport. ICE then cancelled the deportation – that they would today take him into custody is beyond baffling. I can only conclude that it is a brazen show of cruelty and an attempt to dehumanize and humiliate my client Mr. Adi.”

Leopold has been working on Adi’s case for close to twenty years.

“ICE officials could not explain what change of circumstances brought about this cruel and humiliating gesture,” Fidaa said of her husband’s arrest.

In a last minute attempt to keep her husband out of jail, Fidaa told the arresting ICE agents that the two of them would leave the country immediately. They would pay for the airline tickets, she said, so as not to cost the taxpayers any unnecessary expense.

Like everyone in the family and community, Lina was in shock when she heard the news.

“Waking up [to find] out my father’s in jail, that never crossed my mind, not once,” she told me. “I thought if they were going to do anything they would have just deported him right then and there.”

Her father, she added, will remain on a hunger strike until his release. 

Adi had not posed a flight risk as ICE has required him to wear a GPS ankle monitor since September.

He was still wearing the device when he walked into the immigration check-in.

Authorities at the county jail told his family that Adi would not be allowed any visitors, even on the designated visiting days. An ICE spokesperson would not provide a reason for this seemingly punitive decision.

“[ICE] wants to be really cruel and I’m not understanding why,” Lina told me.

Prompted by his family, supporters local and national have been signing a petition directed at Rebecca Adducci, ICE regional director for Detroit and the ultimate decision maker at this point in Adi’s case. They have also been urging supporters to call and email her requesting that Adi remain.

Her office phone, however, has been turned off since yesterday.

Adducci has long been the subject of court cases involving her indiscriminate targeting of long-time, law abiding residents such as Adi. But since Trump took office, she has become increasingly untethered in her mission to tear families apart.

Just two days before, she oversaw the deportation of 30 year resident Jorge Garcia, a Michigan father of U.S. citizens who came to the United States at the age of ten. Adducci used the technicality that he is too old to be a dreamer to justify Garcia’s immediate deportation to Mexico.

Adducci, 52, is a member of the Republican Party and makes an annual salary of approximately $150,000. 

Despite continuous attempts, she could not be reached for comment nor were Mondoweiss’ requests passed on to her by other agency officials.

While Adducci has become infamous for her particular cruelty (she and her agents made national news after they ate lunch in a Mexican restaurant and then proceeded to raid the kitchen), ICE has been ramping up its arrests of non-criminal, long-time U.S. residents across the country.

Between January and July 2017, the agency arrested more than 28,000 so-called immigration violators with no criminal record. According to the Washington Post, this amounts to an increase of nearly three times that during the same seven months in 2016 under the Obama administration.

Adi’s has been a long and protracted fight to stay in the country since his arrival in 1979. ICE’s aggressive pursuit of his deportation stems back to a technicality from a previous marriage. In anger and coercion, his first wife signed an affidavit claiming their marriage was not legitimate and based only on legalizing his immigration status.

But as Hatem Abudayyeh, Executive Director of the Arab American Action Network explained in an interview with Mondoweiss, the state does not have a credible case against Adi.

“His first wife recanted her original testimony, and signed a 12 page affidavit that assured the government that their marriage was legal and real,” Abudayyeh said.

When contacted by Mondoweiss, ICE’s regional spokesperson Khaalid H. Walls argued that Adi’s immigration case has undergone “exhaustive judicial review” at multiple levels of the nation’s courts.

“In each review, the courts have uniformly held that Mr. Othman does not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S.,” Walls said.

Abudayyeh disagreed, noting the second affidavit signed by his first wife provides Adi all the necessary legal basis to remain in the U.S.

“We know that if he gets a hearing and this fact is brought forth, he will be granted permanent residency. That’s why he deserves a stay, until ALL the facts are brought forth in a public immigration court hearing,” Abudayyeh told Mondoweiss.

Multiple ICE offices would not say if Adi would ever receive that chance however.

For now, he awaits deportation to Jordan, though both his family and his wife’s family are from Palestine. If deported, Adi will become a second-generation refugee, as his parents became refugees of Palestine during the 1948 Nakba.

His family and supporters say they plan to keep calling and emailing Adducci and other ICE officials, and begin holding protests if necessary.

Jesse Rubin

Jesse Rubin is a freelance journalist from New York. Twitter: @JesseJDRubin

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13 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle on January 17, 2018, 6:20 pm

    Zionist fingerprints all over this one.

    • Kay24 on January 18, 2018, 4:01 am

      Zionist fingerprints all over the world, where there is chaos, and attacks on Muslims. They provoke, manipulate, bribe, train, and sell weapons to war criminals.

    • Misterioso on January 18, 2018, 4:49 pm

      And “all over” this one:

      “After 10 years, Hassan Diab is finally free”
      By Judy Haiven, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Canada.

      “There are some similarities between the Dreyfus Affair and the case of Hassan Diab. Canadian Hassan Diab is finally free – in part thanks to many individuals and advocacy groups that worked for years to demonstrate the flaws and inconsistencies in the evidence against him, and that demanded a halt to his extradition to France. Diab’s six years of house arrest and three years in a French prison were outrageous injustices meted out to a man who had committed no crime.

      “Lebanese-born Canadian Hassan Diab was a marked man ever since once he was named as France’s only suspect in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured 40. Since 1999, French police had set their sights on Hassan Diab whom they believed was a terrorist involved with a Palestinian group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). But the French police could not clearly prove this. They said Diab’s was the same handwriting as the bomber’s and that an identikit photo proved it was Diab. However handwriting experts confirmed that Diab’s handwriting did not match the five handwritten words on a hotel registration card thought to belong to the bomber. Though a woman in Paris identified the attacker as between 40 and 45 years of age, Diab was only 26 at the time, a student writing exams in his university in Beirut. His presence at the university was corroborated by affidavits from other students and from documents sent by the university. The fingerprints and palm print on evidence found by the French police were not the same as Diab’s.

      “Nonetheless, despite linking Hassan Diab to the crime, in November 2008, France demanded his extradition to stand trial for the murders. Diab was arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa where he lived. He taught sociology at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. The Canadian court had imposed very strict bail conditions.”

      “In June 2011, Justice Robert Maranger ordered that Diab be extradited to France. Maranger did have misgivings; in his words the case against Diab was ‘convoluted’, ‘very confusing’, ‘with conclusions that [were] suspect.’ Appeals to the extradition decision were denied, and Diab was extradited to France in November 2014.

      “For the last three years, Diab has been in solitary confinement awaiting trial in a maximum-security prison on the outskirts of Paris. Though some French magistrates were convinced Diab was the wrong suspect, the prosecutors seemed desperate to pin the crime on him.

      “The Role of B’nai Brith Canada”
      “In 2009, at a hearing in connection with the extradition, Diab’s lawyer explained that Diab intended to return to teaching at Carleton University. According to media reports, the next day an Ottawa-based member of B’nai Brith called Carleton University to complain that Diab was still teaching there.

      “Later that day, Carleton fired Diab, who was three weeks into teaching an introductory sociology course at the University. Even before Carleton University came out with its statement, B’nai Brith Canada, commended the university for having done the ‘right thing’ in not allowing Diab to teach. In their statement, B’nai Brith Canada said it was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the news that the alleged bomber would be permitted to teach.”

      “At no time did B’nai Brith seek to make common cause with well-respected social justice and advocacy groups such as Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, and the Canadian Labour Congress – to name a handful. They all demanded justice for Diab.

      “Two Jewish organizations supported Diab – the United Jewish People’s Order, and Independent Jewish Voices-Canada. IJV-Canada has supported Diab from the start and demanded he be freed. IJV-Canada joined with other Canadian advocacy groups to expose discredited evidence and the Canadian government’s complicity in allowing Diab’s extradition.”

  2. pabelmont on January 17, 2018, 8:03 pm

    I think Trump and his minions at ICE are determined to prove what many have said for many years, namely, that there is no daylight between Israel’s values and America’s. I don’t believe that horrible slur is true of American citizens generally but it may, especially now, be true of the governments’ values.

  3. JosephA on January 17, 2018, 10:05 pm

    This case seems to have an undercurrent of obvious racism. I hope public opinion will sway the outcome to the right side of history.

  4. genesto on January 18, 2018, 12:08 pm

    I read a story like this and it just further fuels my anger towards Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party that paved the way for Trump and all of his mean-spirited, racist lieutenants to rise to power and terrorize innocent.,law-abiding American citizens like Adi. It’s really heartbreaking!

  5. Lillian Rosengarten on January 18, 2018, 1:12 pm

    Fascism in action. There is no question . ICE is the gestapo rounding up the Jews. My distain and disgust overflows!

  6. inbound39 on January 18, 2018, 9:41 pm

    The Good People of America , who number in the millions need to pressure the Pro Israel ,Pro Zionist representatives in the Political System in America and voice their assertion that the Special Relationship with Israel needs to end and Israel needs to be held accountable for its actions and a law needs passing that deletes those with Zionist and Israel connections from participating in Government affairs as they are nothing more than foreign agents sterring America away from Americas best path in the World. These Foreign Agents have destroyed America and its Status. It has become repulsive and thoroughly distasteful.

  7. montereypinegreen on January 18, 2018, 10:19 pm

    Cleveland is the congressional district of former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, perhaps the last non-Zionist member of Congress, and beloved of the Arab American people of this city. One wonders if the particular viciousness of the ICE in this case isn’t something of a slap-in-the-face of Arab Americans and of Kucinich, who was stabbed in the back by his own party when he ran for reelection.

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