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US deports Palestinian businessman credited for revitalising Ohio town

Disregarding protests and lawmakers' demands, ICE deports Amer Adi Othman, father of four
Amer Adi Othman with his family (Courtesy of Lina Adi)

US immigration authorities deported on Monday a Palestinian businessman who had been living in the country for decades, defying protests from family members, activists, local politicians and lawmakers.

The US Congress Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security had called on immigration officials to review Amer Adi Othman's case earlier this month, a request that would normally halt his deportation. But on Tuesday the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced that "Mr Othman was removed to Jordan without incident".

Othman, 57, had been fighting deportation after being accused of involvement in a “sham” marriage more than 37 years ago.

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

- Congressman Tim Ryan

He married an American citizen after arriving in the US in 1979, which allowed him to successfully apply for legal residency. The marriage did not last and Othman remarried an Ohio woman with whom he has four daughters.

Othman's immigration status was brought into question because authorities suspected that his first marriage was a “sham”. His first wife had signed an affidavit backing the authorities’ accusation, but later submitted another document stating that the marriage was legitimate.

The Palestinian businessman was arrested on 16 January although he had voluntarily agreed to leave the country. He went on hunger strike for eight days while in ICE’s custody.

His small businesses in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, have been praised for revitalising the city centre.

The local community and politicians from both major parties decried his arrest.

Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents Youngstown, denounced Othman’s deportation on Tuesday. He accused ICE of rebuking congressional authority.

"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," Ryan said in a statement.

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"There are violent criminals walking the streets, yet our government wasted our precious resources incarcerating him."

He added that American families are being "ripped apart" because of President Donald Trump's policies.

“I’m sad that America, and the American presidency has become a place where politics outweighs doing what is right,” the congressman said.

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