Amer Adi Othman had just hours to say goodbye to his wife and children on the phone Monday evening before officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency hurried him onto a plane and sent him back to his native Jordan—a country he hasn’t lived in for nearly 40 years—despite his case being taken up by a House committee.
“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,” Othman’s wife Fidda Musleh told CBS News. “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.”
Othman, 57, had been detained by ICE officials after a routine check-in on Jan. 16. A week earlier, he had been preparing to leave the country of his own accord following a deportation order stemming from what immigration officials claimed was a “sham” marriage to his first wife in 1980. That woman has since reportedly recanted her claim that she married Othman to allow him to stay in the country. He was initially shielded from deportation under President Barack Obama’s administration but was targeted once again following the election of President Donald Trump.
Complicating matters further is the fact that although Othman had exhausted his judicial options, his case had recently been taken up by the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman specifically requested ICE reopen Othman’s case. ICE refused the congressional petition last week.
According to one of Othman’s four daughters, ICE officials initially indicated they were willing to revisit her father’s case and had urged him not to self-deport while they reviewed his case.
“We were all mentally prepared for him to be gone and then you tell him to wait and stay so you can put him in jail?” she told WKSU. “For what, and you don’t want to answer why or for what when he was leaving? Because you have no answers, you have no answers.”
Othman, whose Downtown Circle Convenience Store and Deli had been a staple of Youngstown, OH, was also championed by a number of lawmakers, including Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who released a statement following news of Othman’s deportation:
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.
Othman was reportedly on a hunger strike during his time in ICE custody and according to his wife had lost nearly 20 pounds since his arrest. Othman’s family is planning on attending a immigration rally—planned on his behalf—Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Update, 12:45 PM: ICE has given Splinter the following statement (emphasis theirs):
After conducting a comprehensive review of Mr. Othman’s case, including careful consideration of the Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s request for an investigative report, ICE has chosen not to grant a stay of removal in his case.
Over the last decade, Mr. Othman’s immigration case has undergone exhaustive judicial review at multiple levels of the nation’s courts, including before the immigration courts, federal appeals courts and U.S. district court. In each review, the courts have uniformly held that Mr. Othman does not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S. As such, Mr. Othman will remain in ICE custody pending removal from the United States. Due to operational security concerns, ICE does not confirm specific removal arrangements prior to an individual’s successful repatriation.
While ICE acknowledges Congress’s authority to pass legislation providing immigration benefits to non-citizens, alien beneficiaries need not be present in the United States for a private immigration relief bill to be introduced, considered, and/or enacted. An alien who is granted relief through the enactment of a private immigration bill can lawfully travel back to the United States.
As ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.