ICE officials arrest Ohio business owner, plan to deport him


YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WKBN) – Tuesday, the attorney for downtown Youngstown businessman Al Adi Othman called the actions of officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “the brazen humiliation, degradation, dehumanizing of a man who’s an American in every way but a piece of paper.”

Adi’s lawyer, David Leopold, was among the people who showed up Tuesday morning at the ICE regional office near Cleveland, where Adi was arrested and detained before what was expected to be a routine hearing on his immigration status.

Leopold said ICE officials told him Adi would be deported.

When Adi showed up for his 9 a.m. appointment, Leopold said, “The first thing out of their mouth was, ‘We’re not going to beat around the bush. We’re going to take him into custody.’”

Congressman Tim Ryan was at the hearing.

“This is absolutely insane,” he said. “He would have bought a ticket and packed his bags. He would have left. They put him jail. They’re treating him like an animal.”

Adi’s friends say Ryan has tried making calls, but no one will talk to him.

Adi will be jailed in Geauga County. He is on a hunger strike, saying he won’t eat until the problem is resolved.

Leopold didn’t know when the deportation would take place.

Shortly after the first of the year, Adi was told by ICE officials that he would have to leave the country but on January 4, the stay was delayed.

Adi is the owner of the Downtown Convenience Store and Deli and has been in the United States for 39 years.

Family and friends have gathered at Circle Hookah – the bar in the back of Adi’s store – in solidarity.

Adi’s wife, Fidda Musleh, who was also at the hearing, said, “Why would you trick us to say he has a stay, get us here, just to put him behind bars? What’s the reason behind it? Was he a threat to anybody? They have no answers.”

Musleh did talk briefly with her husband on the phone through glass.

“He said, ‘Just take care of the girls,'” she said, then began to cry.

Musleh issued the following statement on Tuesday:

Today, Amer ‘Al’ Adi Othman was arrested and detained during a meeting with ICE officials in Cleveland, Ohio, just 12 days after ICE issued him a stay.

Al had voluntarily purchased a plane ticket for January 7, 2018 to depart the United States for Jordan after being told by ICE he was to be deported. In anticipation of his departure, Al has prepared his luggage and started to say goodbyes. On January 4, ICE issued a stay of his deportation, following an outcry from the community and a bipartisan effort from local politicians.

Less than two weeks later, on January 16, ICE officials changed course and took Al into custody while he was attending a routine meeting. Al was accompanied by his wife, Fidaa Adi, lawyer, friends, Congressman Tim Ryan and Tracey Winbush, vice chairwoman of the Mahoning County Republican Party. Upon arrival, he was taken from his wife’s arms, handcuffed and taken into custody. His wife offered to purchase new plane tickets and depart immediately with her husband, but ICE refused. He was given no warning or opportunity to say goodbye to his wife or daughters.

Al, who had been willing to voluntarily depart two weeks ago, is now behind bars in county jail for an undetermined period of time. ICE officials could not explain what change of circumstances brought about this cruel and humiliating gesture. Al posed no flight risk, reported to each and every immigration meeting and had no criminal record. It is an assault on his dignity, due process and the mental and emotional sanity of an American family.”

Sen. Joe Schiavoni also released a statement, saying Adi’s case shows the immigration system is broken:

It’s tragic that ICE did not give Al Adi the opportunity to say goodbye to his wife and daughters when he already had agreed to leave the country.

This is another example of our nation’s broken immigration system – a system that everyone agrees needs reform but remains a victim of partisan politics in Washington. It’s time that members of Congress and President Trump focus on passing comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform that treats our fellow human beings with dignity and respect.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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