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Palestinian-American gets last minute deportation reprieve thanks to community support and help from local congressman

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After two decades fighting to remain in the United States, Amer Othman Adi spent the first days of 2018 saying goodbye to his friends and neighbors in his adopted hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

That is until his lawyer and supporters — including a Congressman — secured a final-hour stay of deportation yesterday, just a few days before Adi’s forced deportation to Jordan scheduled for Sunday.

Adi, a Palestinian-American businessman and community activist, has owned and run a number of businesses in the city for years, including the popular Downtown Circle Hookah Bar.

“I have been fighting this deportation for almost 23 years; I thought we had it solved,” Adi told a small group of teary-eyed friends and neighbors gathered at the hookah bar on Tuesday. “But when Donald Trump was elected I knew I was in trouble.”

While the Obama administration deported more immigrants than any previous commander in chief, Donald Trump’s election and racist anti-immigrant rhetoric has emboldened federal agencies like Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). ICE has essentially become, in words of one commentator, “disturbingly authoritarian“, terrorizing immigrant communities with indiscriminate raids and deportations.

In September, ICE agents informed Adi that he had three months before he would be forced to leave the country. Adi and his wife Fidaa — a U.S. citizen — resolved to move to Jordan, while their daughters finished college and kept the family businesses open.

At the same gathering with fellow Youngstown residents at his Downtown Circle Hookah Bar, Adi expressed utter disbelief at the treatment he received by the federal immigration agents.

“[ICE] didn’t even trust the fact that I do not have a record, I’ve always gone by the rules,” he explained.

“So they gave me this,” Adi said, lifting up his leg to reveal a digital ankle monitor, “so they would know exactly where I’m at…they probably know that I’m talking to you.”

Although the local news reporting has performed gymnastics to avoid mentioning Adi’s true place of origin and citizenship, Hatem Abudayyeh, of the national coordinating committee of the United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) confirmed to Mondoweiss that Adi is originally from Beit Safafa, a town in occupied East Jerusalem.

In 1948, his family fled the Zionist militias of a fledgling Israeli state, becoming refugees during the Nakba. In 1979 at the age of nineteen, Adi left Jordan for the United States on a visa. He subsequently married his first wife, an American citizen, which granted him a green card.

They eventually divorced and in 1988, Adi was remarried to his current wife Fidaa after moving to Ohio.

But his immigration troubles began in 1991, when they returned to the US after a few years in Brazil. Based on an affidavit signed by his first wife stating they married only for a green card, which she claims was signed under duress and harassment from immigration enforcement officials who showed up to her home early in the morning, the state rescinded Adi’s green card, claiming that his first marriage was a “sham”.

Despite a second affidavit in 2007 from Adi’s first wife that explains how she was angry and pressured into signing the first, Adi was ordered deported the same year.

He has been fighting the decision ever since.

In 2013 Adi found an ally in Congressman Tim Ryan, representative for Ohio’s 13th District, who has filed a “private bill” in Congress every year on Adi’s behalf. Congress members have the authority to file such a bill in the case of an impending deportation, granting additional time to contest the deportation of a specific individual.

Under the Trump administration however, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have vowed not to honor these arrangements.

After the news broke Thursday afternoon that Adi would be granted another stay of deportation, Congressman Ryan joined him in celebrating the temporary victory.

“It was a total team effort from this man, his family, his attorney, the community rallying around him, the people who work here, the mayor. There was just unbelievable community support,” Ryan told a reporter while gathered at the hookah bar on Thursday evening. “And we were the conduit in Washington.”

The length and details of the arranged stay of deportation have not been made public at this time. Congressman Ryan’s office would not comment on the specifics, but expressed relief that Adi would be able to stay in the country for now.

While the Congressman’s support has been well appreciated and impactful, USPCN’s Abudayyeh noted that “[Amer’s] been fighting to stay here a long time, longer than Ryan has been filing these private bills.”

Adi’s case has garnered a relatively extensive amount of attention, considering that indeed every day hundreds of immigrants go through deportation proceedings and are eventually deported with near anonymity in the press.

With the state “essentially targeting hundreds of thousands of people potentially for deportation, I think there is still a big fear in the community,” Abudayyeh told Mondoweiss. “People in the Arab and Palestinian and Muslim communities across the country have been doing a lot of work around immigration and immigrant rights, with the Muslim ban, with the implementation memos.”

“Definitely there’s a sigh of relief here because of the stay, but there’s still a lot of work to be done with the Congressman and the community to continue to support Amer and make sure that he doesn’t have to leave his family,” Abudayyeh added.

The media coverage has also positioned Adi’s commercial relationship primary among his contributions as an immigrant. “You read a lot about his business relationships with the city,” said Abudayyeh, which overshadows his community activism.

“Not just Amer himself but his wife and their children have been incredible in terms of their commitment to Youngstown, Ohio in general. Their commitment to the Arab American community that’s there especially.”

Abudayyeh ackowledged that the fight against deportation must be coordinated with the community most affected by such draconian immigration policies.

“We work very closely with folks from the Latino community,” he said. “We take our leadership from them when it comes to the demands of DHS and ICE and Trump.”

Jesse Rubin

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

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3 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on January 8, 2018, 10:37 pm

    RE: “Palestinian-American gets last minute deportation reprieve “

    MY COMMENT: How serious can Trump be about keeping out illegal aliens when he just commuted the sentence of an employer caught with hundreds of illegal aliens working for him (nearly 300 from Israel-worshiping Guatemala).*
    So, Trump is going to spend all that money on a wall to keep out illegal aliens, while letting off U.S. employers caught knowingly employing large numbers of illegal aliens?
    Think the Democrats will do anything?
    Fat chance!

    “Trump and the Meat Tycoon: Backstory to a Commutation” | by Martha Rosenberg | CounterPunch | December 25, 2018

    After he served 8 years of a 27-year sentence for money laundering, kosher meatpacking executive Sholom Rubashkin had his sentence commuted.

    On May 14, 2008, hundreds of officers from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) swooped down on Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, with helicopters in the largest single-site raid in US history, arresting half of the eight-hundred-person workforce. Two hundred and ninety Guatemalans, ninety-three Mexicans, two Israelis, and four Ukrainians were marched off to a waiting phalanx of buses and vans and a makeshift detention center.

    Initial charges against Agriprocessors’s employees included harboring illegal aliens, use of child labor, document fraud, identity theft, physical and sexual abuse of workers, unsafe working conditions, wage and hour violations, and shorting workers’ pay. According to the search warrant, one thousand discrepancies between worker names and social security numbers occurred in three years. There was even a methamphetamine production plant existing within the slaughterhouse, sanctioned by management. At the time Barack Obama, then an Illinois senator, weighed in on Agriprocessors. “They have kids in there wielding buzz saws and cleavers. It’s ridiculous,” he said during a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa.

    Three hundred workers served federal prison sentences of five months for identity theft, and human resources managers and floor supervisors were convicted of felony charges of harboring illegal immigrants. Agriprocessors itself filed for bankruptcy. While thousands of child-labor charges were initially filed against Agriprocessors’s owner, Aaron Rubashkin; his son Sholom; and others, the charges were dropped as prosecutors unspooled elaborate financial wrongdoing at the plant, which they pursued instead.

    In 2008, Sholom Rubashkin was convicted of eighty-six counts of federal-bank fraud in connection with loans to the company, including fabricating fake collateral for loans, ordering employees to create false invoices, and laundering millions through a secret bank account in the name of Torah Education, reported the New York Times. Sentencing documents also suggest the Postville mayor, Robert Penrod, may have received or extorted money from Agriprocessors to discourage unionizing at the plant.

    The immigration raid was not Agriprocessors’ first troubles. In 2004, an undercover video showed cows very much alive after being “slaughtered” and having their throats cut, and it led to a USDA investigation that “reported many violations of animal cruelty laws at the plant,” says the New York Times. A year and a half after the cruelty video, the Forward paid a visit to Postville and reopened public scrutiny. Hundreds of semi-indentured immigrant employees were working ten- to twelve-hour shifts, six days a week, for $6.25 to $7 a hour, wrote the newspaper calling them “the impoverished humans who do the factory’s dirty work.”

    Before the immigration raid, Agriprocessors had six Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations in one year, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints that supervisors extorted bribes from workers. Employees were untrained and unprotected from dangerous equipment, reported the Forward. Two workers required amputations in one month, and one was still working at the plant with a hand missing when the Forward visited, “hoping to collect enough to pay off his debts back home.”

    After the immigration raid, prosecutors asked for a life sentence for the young Sholom Rubashkin, citing his lawlessness and lack of remorse, more than one dozen former US attorneys cried to the judge: Unfair! “We cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence—or anything close to it—for Mr. Rubashkin, a 51-year-old, first-time, nonviolent offender,” said a letter signed by former attorney generals Janet Reno, William Barr, Richard Thornburgh, Edwin Meese III, Ramsey Clark, and Nicholas Katzenbach.

    Nonviolent if you leave out what happened to the workers and the animals at Agriprocessors.


    • JLewisDickerson on January 8, 2018, 10:46 pm

      ■ ALSO SEE: “Kosher Industry’s Woes Reach a Poor Village in Guatemala” | By Summer Harlow | | December 24, 2008
      LINK ➤

      • Ronald Johnson on January 9, 2018, 9:27 am

        But wait ! There is more:

        Sholom Rubashkin’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement charges were not pressed by the Feds. when it was determined that the financial fraud case was bad enough – save the effort, of an ICE case with 300 accomplices. But note the lack of repentance, and the unlikelihood of paying restitution of $27 million.

        Rubashkin got off on state charges of child labor violations on the plea that the children all presented forged identity papers.

        Mr. Adi has one Congressman pleading his case. Consider the Rubashkin supporters:

        “A bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking and distinguished Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the evidentiary proceedings in Mr. Rubashkins case and the severity of his sentence. Additionally, more than 30 current Members of Congress have written letters expressing support for review of Mr. Rubashkins case. ”

        The judge in the Rubashkin case was the subject of a derogatory article in “Mother Jones”, August 2017, an article reaching back to 2008, presenting a debatable conflict of interest notion about her husbands investments in private prison companies, while the judge had no way of actually steering convicts to either public or private prisons. The judge is fortunately tenured, but her name has been defamed.


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