Youngstown entrepreneur and downtown business owner Amer Othman Adi, 57, is not leaving the country this weekend. Immigration authorities had ordered him deported because of questions about the legality of his entry into the United States 38 years ago.
But a groundswell of local support for Othman backed them off, for now.
The government says Adi married a U.S. citizen when he came to America, got a green card, then the couple divorced. It maintains the marriage was a sham. Although Adi offered evidence for years that the nearly three-year marriage was real, his application for a second green card was denied in the 1990s and he was finally ordered to leave for Jordan.
Area Congressman Tim Ryan says immigration officials are now agreeing to stay deportation and review the case. He says grassroots pressure was key to the change, and he saw first-hand why.
“It was really the most amazing experience. I was with him for a couple of hours in the back of his store,” Ryan says. “Here was a Palestinian man being greeted all morning long by black people, white people, brown people, gay people, straight people, Catholic, Baptist, Democrat, Republican, all coming in supporting this man and his family.”
Ryan says Adi’s convenience store and hookah bar helped revitalize Youngstown. Ryan says the decision in Washington to not carry out the deportation until taking another look at the facts – and considering the human dimensions of the case – is a breakthrough.
“You know, he really didn’t do anything wrong,” Ryan says. “And that just needs to be born out through a judicial process, which he’s never had. The man has never had his day in court. Which I think, at the end of the day, was the big argument that stuck. You can’t just deport someone who has not been given an opportunity to give their side of the story.”
Adi says he is "so happy" after receiving the call about the stay from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is "overwhelmed by the support" he has received. His four adult daughters remain in the U.S. as well.
The Congressman says the Judiciary Committee may get involved at some points in setting up a process for handling the Adi case.