UPDATE: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have deported a man who was living in the country for almost 39 years.
Amer "Al" Othman, 57, was arrested by immigration officials earlier this month after being told he was granted a hearing regarding his eligibility to stay in the U.S.
Earlier this week, Othman, a Jordanian man of Palestinian descent, was officially deported to Jordan on a flight departing from Chicago, CBS News reported, weeks after it was suggested a review of his eligibility to remain in the country would begin. Family members only learned about his deportation hours before his flight was scheduled to leave, forcing his wife and four daughters to say their goodbyes via telephone.
The detention and deportation were not necessary. Othman had already packed his bags and was cooperating with ICE officials earlier in January, agreeing to meet them at the airport and voluntarily willing to be sent to Jordan when he received notice that his deportation was being stayed.
His congressman, Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), had submitted a bill to a Congressional subcommittee that would have granted Othman legal citizenship status if it had passed. The bill did not pass, but the subcommittee agreed to investigate the matter, which is not unusual for so-called "private bills." Generally during the investigative process, deportations are put on hold, Ryan's Congressional office told Carbonated.TV in an interview.
Ryan had made similar bill submissions on Othman's behalf in 2013 and 2015 as well.
When he arrived at a rescheduled hearing regarding his status earlier this month, ICE officials informed Othman and his lawyer right away that they were going to detain him.
“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,’” Othman’s lawyer, David Leopold, said.
At the time of his arrest, Ryan described the actions as “abosolutely insane.” Ryan also commented on Monday’s sudden deportation.
“There are violent criminals walking the streets, yet our government wasted our previous resources incarcerating him,” Ryan said, recognizing that in addition to the emotional element to the story, the federal government is wasting taxpayer dollars acting in this manner. “I'm sad that America, and the American presidency, has become a place where politics outweighs doing what is right.”
Fidda Musleh, Othman’s wife, expressed mixed emotions upon learning of his fate.
“I'm a little relieved to know that he's not in prison, but I'm sad that this was such a cruel, inhumane way they did it,” she said.
President Donald Trump’s doctrine of indiscriminate deportation, resulting in splitting up families of immigrants, has made headlines several times over the past year. These families’ stories are heart-wrenching and demonstrate the despicable means Trump is employing in order to deport thousands of otherwise law-abiding individuals.
There is a better way to handle the issue of immigration when it comes to those who have lived here for years, especially for individuals who have contributed to the economy in positive ways and have immediate family members living here as American citizens.
Othman’s story is just one example of how Trump is endangering the promise of America as a beacon of hope for people around the world. How many more stories like these must we hear about before we demand a change in policy?
An Ohio business owner, who came to United States from Jordan nearly 40 years ago, had begun packing his bags to leave for his native country when immigration officers informed him that his stay had been extended.
However, less than two weeks after receiving that call, ICE officials arrested Amer “Al” Othman, who owns the Downtown Convenience Store and Deli in Youngstown, before what was supposed to be a routine hearing about his immigration status.
Despite having no criminal record, the 57-year-old man of Palestinian descent is currently languishing in a jail cell. His wife said Othman is on a hunger strike, refusing to eat anything until the situation has been resolved.
Othman’s attorney, David Leopold, said he and his client showed up at the ICE regional office near Cleveland at 9 a.m. for the scheduled appointment. It was expected to be a normal meeting, but it quickly went sideways.
“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,’” recalled Leopold, adding the authorities can keep Othman in detention for up to 180 days before deporting him back to Jordan — which is ironic, considering the fact he would have left the country willingly had the officials not told him to stay.
According to the Vindicator, the businessman had applied for a green card in the '90s. However, his application was denied over allegations of a fraudulent marriage. It is important to note Othman’s first wife signed an affidavit stating their marriage wasn’t a fraud.
Othman and his current wife have been married for 29 years and have four children.
“We were ready to go before. We sold our house, we had plane tickets and were prepared to leave (for Amman, Jordan) when they said we did not have to. Then they do this. Are they deliberately trying to be cruel?" asked his wife, Fidda. "Let us go, we will leave now. I want to pay our own way, I don't want anything from them. We will leave, like we were going to.”
Last year in September, ICE officials demanded Othman wear a GPS ankle monitor, which he was wearing when he had walked into the immigration center that fateful morning, according to his daughter.
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D), who was also present at the hearing, has expressed outrage over Othman’s detention and continues to fight for him.
“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.”
Ryan went on to call the arrest “shameful failure of justice.”
“Treating an individual with no criminal record who poses zero flight risk like an animal flies in the face of the American values Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supposedly defending,” it read. “The Trump administration didn’t even give Amer an opportunity to say goodbye to his wife and four daughters. A country that punishes those who wish to contribute will not find prosperity. What I saw today made me feel sad for our country. This fight is not over.”
While the timeline of Othman’s arrest is still a little unclear, the fact that he was detained after being given false hope is simply outrageous.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson