Editor's note: This interview with Fidaa Musleh was done just before a U.S. House committee voted tonight on a special bill that, once again, changed the status of her husband's deportation case. The story has been updated to reflect the later events.
A Youngstown businessman got a temporary reprieve last night, with a special action by a House subcommittee forcing the Department of Homeland Security to take another look at his deportation case. It was the latest twist in a week that whipsawed Amer Adi and his family. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze spoke with his wife, Fidaa Musleh, -- just before the latest news broke – about a week that began with what she called a cruel trick and humiliation.
A last-minute reprieve
Amer Adi has been fighting deportation over a decades-old claim that his first marriage was a sham. The popular Youngstown community leader even had the support of Congressman Tim Ryan, who introduced a special bill to the House Judiciary Committee to force a review of the case. But the bill was going nowhere, and Adi’s wife, Fidaa Musleh says they had resigned themselves to leaving the country for Jordan on Jan. 7. Instead, ICE announced it would reconsider. Musleh says they embraced that turn and had few qualms when they showed up at a regular immigration check-in Tuesday.
Then, “we walk in and the officer says, ‘I’m not going to beat around the bush. We’re taking Amer into custody.’ I was outraged. Why? Why would you trick us? We had our tickets, we had our bags. We were voluntarily leaving. Nobody was resisting. This man did not commit any crimes, he did not violate any laws. Why are you doing this?”
ICE has said it gave Adi’s case a full review and it had basically run its course.
Musleh says she didn’t agree, but accepted that.
“I’m drained,” she says. That’s why they were voluntarily leaving. But surprise word that they could stay, followed by the surprise arrest “felt as if it was some type of conspiracy.
“Why would you let this man buy a ticket, have his bags ready to go, sell his home … and then you trick him into going back thinking there is something positive that ICE had to say to him.”
A hunger strike
She says she got no explanation from the officer, and their immigration lawyer, David Leopold, got nothing from his supervisor.
Musleh says her husband told her of his plans for a hunger strike of water and salt they day he was taken into custody.
“I went back into to talk with him and him a hug. They had him behind glass. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”
She says she continues to parent her four girls, some of whom are in college.
“I have to stay strong. I have a business in downtown Youngstown. I can’t stop. I have to keep going for him, for the girls.’”
A question of trust
But she says she intends to join her husband if he is deported to Jordan. “He’s my husband of 29 years. I’m sticking with him through thick or thin.”
She thinks the intention of his hunger strike was to ensure he wasn’t held for months. But neither of them expected they would be able to return to the life in Youngstown they had known.
“I don’t’ trust ICE. I don’t trust anybody. … Why would they change the whole procedure to trick him? The only thing I can see is to humiliate him. Make him an example to the rest of the world: This is what we do if you speak up.”
But a few hours after this interview, Fidaa Musleh got word that speaking up had helped, at least temporarily. Rep. Tim Ryan’s bill ordering a Homeland Security review is likely to gain Amer Adi a six-month stay and release from jail. Ryan was jubilant, but says the system shouldn’t depend on the intervention of a congressman.