YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – By 11 p.m. Monday, Youngstown businessman Amer “Al” Adi was on a plane headed to his native country of Jordan.
According to his family, the flight took off at 10:45 p.m. ET from Chicago.
While it is clearly a tough time for the family, there were lots of smiles during the reunion.
Adi did, however, talk about his deportation after he landed.
“I cannot see anybody with that much of hate, that much of hate in their chest and in their heart. I speak in the name of at least 800,000 people in the United States of America, not just me.”
Congressman Tim Ryan, who fought to keep Adi in the U.S. and grant him citizenship, said his guest seat at the State of the Union Address Tuesday night — which was supposed to belong to Adi — will remain empty.
This evening, when the President of the United States walks into the House Chamber to deliver his first State of the Union Address, there will be at least one vacant seat because of the President’s own actions. Amer Othman was a pillar of the Youngstown community. He started a business downtown, employed members of our community, paid his taxes, and raised a beautiful family — all in the Mahoning Valley. Today, he no longer resides in the country he’s called home for 39 years because the Trump Administration decided to target upstanding individuals — Americans in every sense of the word — instead of violent criminals who actually pose a threat. President Trump must realize that when his words become public policy in places like Youngstown, families like Amer’s are ripped apart. That is why my guest seat at the State of the Union will remain empty — in honor of Amer and all those people being heartlessly targeted by the Trump Administration. I’m sad that America, and the Office of the President, has become a place where the politics of fear outweigh doing what is right. Amer deserves to be at the State of the Union this evening, representing himself and so many others like him, to show President Trump and Congressional Republicans that the United States is his home. Instead his seat remains empty.”
Adi was moved from Youngstown Monday morning and his family only found out about 8 p.m. that he was being deported. He had time to say a quick goodbye on the phone.
“I’m shocked that we’re standing here once again, telling you, ‘Oh, we found out he’s actually in Chicago,’” said Adi’s daughter, Lina Adi.
Adi’s wife, Fidaa Musleh, said she spent the day worrying. Her husband called every morning from the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, where he was being held.
“Waited and no call,” she said. “I assumed something was wrong. I called the lawyer, he didn’t know anything.”
Meanwhile, Adi was taken to the airport and flown from Youngstown to Chicago.
“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,” Fidaa said.
While in jail, Adi was on a hunger strike, vowing not to eat until he was released.
“I know we’re supposed to be happy, I know we’re supposed to feel some kind of relief, but I’m ashamed to be part of this country, I am,” Lina said. “This is just wrong. From day one until now, this is wrong.”
Last week, Adi’s family called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “corrupt.” They said the government was treating Adi like a criminal even though he’d never been convicted of a crime.
The family is regrouping. Their father, husband and friend is gone.
“We’re going to take it one day at a time. I have a business to run, I have children to take care of. I gotta figure this out,” Fidaa said.
Adi left his family with a message to everyone who has supported him in the last few weeks.
“He wanted to thank everybody for supporting him, and standing by him and believing in him,” Fidaa said.
“We’re still going to continue the fight. This is just the beginning. This is just the beginning for everybody,” Lina said.
On Tuesday, the entire family will go to an immigration rally at 5:30 p.m. in Cleveland at Market Square (at the corner of W. 25th St. and Lorain Ave.). Fidaa said they’ll call Adi on the phone during the rally.
As to whether they’ll see a day when Adi is back in the United States, the family said they don’t know.
Congressman Tim Ryan, who fought for Adi to stay in the U.S., released the following statement Monday night:
It is a sad day for Amer, his family and our entire community. In a highly irregular rebuke of Congressional authority by ICE, Amer Othman was ripped from his four daughters, his wife, and the country that he has called home for over thirty years. Amer was a pillar of the community and brought commerce to a downtown that craved investment. He hired members of our community. He paid taxes. He did everything right. There are violent criminals walking the streets, yet our government wasted our precious resources incarcerating him.
I hope President Trump comes to realize that when his words become public policy in places like Youngstown, families like Amer’s are ripped apart. I am deeply saddened and extremely disappointed with this outcome. I’m sad that America, and the American Presidency has become a place where politics outweighs doing what is right.
I will continue to do whatever I can to support Amer’s family in Youngstown during this difficult time. As long as I am Congressman, I will continue to fight for common sense and justice in this country.”
Officials with ICE arrested Adi on January 16 when he showed up for a hearing on his immigration status. He was scheduled to be deported and had been planned to leave for his native country of Jordan, but ICE granted a temporary stay.
Adi is the owner of the Downtown Circle Convenience Store and Deli and has been in the United States for 39 years. Immigration officials determined that his marriage to a woman in 1980 was a “sham” based on a signed affidavit from the woman saying she married Adi to help him stay in the U.S., according to court documents. The woman later recanted her statement.
Court records also indicate that Adi abandoned his lawful permanent residence status, which was granted during his marriage to his first wife, by moving to Brazil with his current wife in 1988 and remaining outside of the U.S. until they returned in 1992. Two years after their return, his wife filed the first of three unsuccessful I-130 petitions for permanent residence status on Adi’s behalf.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this report indicated that Adi would be deported Tuesday. It has been corrected to show that he was deported Monday night.