Ohio businessman deported after 38 years in U.S. vows he'll return
In this Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 photo, Amer Othman, 57, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Amman, Jordan.
The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, February 20, 2018 9:43AM EST
AMMAN, Jordan — Amer Othman’s life turned upside down in an instant.
The Ohio entrepreneur, who came to the United States 38 years ago and won praise for helping revive once-blighted downtown Youngstown, was arrested during what he thought was another check-in with immigration authorities. He was detained for two weeks and then deported to his native Jordan.
Othman’s supporters in the U.S. view such treatment as a particularly egregious example of the Trump administration’s ramped-up deportation campaign that potentially targets anyone lacking the right papers, including long-time residents with American spouses and children.
Recent cases include a Missouri college lecturer and a Connecticut couple running a nail salon who won last-minute reprieves through local politicians but remain at risk of expulsion.
Supporters of the crackdown say immigration rules must be enforced, regardless of family and community ties of those targeted.
Othman’s battle to remain in the United States goes back to the mid-1990s, when immigration authorities refused to renew his green card, alleging his first marriage in 1980 had been fraudulent.
Othman denies the charge, noting that his ex-wife later retracted an initial statement she said was made under duress. A deportation order was issued in 2007, but Othman didn’t feel at immediate risk — until last summer — because of ongoing appeals.
Three weeks after his arrival in Jordan, the 57-year-old Othman still seems in shock.
Speaking at his sister’s apartment in the capital, Amman, he said he’ll fight to return to “my Youngstown.”
He might sue the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, which he said locked him up needlessly, treating him like a criminal. “What ICE has done is un-American,” said Othman, whose second wife Fidaa and their four adult daughters are U.S. citizens.
“The American people are completely and absolutely different from that,” Othman said. Tears welled up as he described wide community support, including from Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, and Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown. “I love the American people. I love my community,” he said.
Ryan was previously able to keep Othman in the country through private bills in Congress, the first submitted in 2013.
Othman’s deportation marks the first time ICE acted against recommendations of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security to hold off on an expulsion while a case is being reviewed, Ryan said.