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"Cruel and humiliating gesture," family says as Ohio businessman faces deportation

Last Updated Jan 18, 2018 9:28 AM EST

An Ohio businessman suddenly faces deportation less than two weeks after immigration officials told him his stay was delayed, CBS affiliate WKBN reports. Now, instead of Amer "Al" Adi Othman having a meal with his family, he's on a hunger strike from his jail cell Wednesday until the matter is resolved.

Othman, who came to U.S. from Jordan almost 40 years ago, was arrested and detained before what was expected to be a routine hearing on his immigration status at an ICE regional office near Cleveland on Tuesday, his attorney, David Leopold, told WKBN. 

Leopold said ICE officials told him Othman would be deported.

When Othman showed up for his 9 a.m. appointment, Leopold said, "The first thing out of their mouth was, 'We're not going to beat around the bush. We're going to take him into custody.'"

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) was at the hearing.

"This is absolutely insane," he said. "He would have bought a ticket and packed his bags. He would have left. They put him jail. They're treating him like an animal."

Shortly after Jan. 1, Othman was told by ICE officials that he would have to leave the country, but on Jan. 4, he received a stay following outcry from the community and bipartisan effort from politicians. 

Othman, who owns a deli and a hookah bar in Youngstown, has contributed to the revitalization of the city's downtown district, according to locals. Youngstown Mayor Jamael "Tito" Brown told Fox 8 that Othman's deportation is a loss for the city, saying he was a "pioneer for the downtown renaissance."

Actress and activist Alyssa Millano also retweeted a video featuring Othman and his current situation. 

"We need to get serious about protesting these actions," Milano tweeted. "This is not only [un-American] it is inhumane."

The timeline of what will happen to Othman is still unclear, according to his attorney. His wife Fidda Musleh told The Vindicator on Wednesday that "the whole situation is not just" as Othman continues with his hunger strike. 

Musleh told the newspaper his application for a green card in the 1990s was denied over a claim that his first marriage was fraudulent. Othman's first wife filed an affidavit recanting the statement she signed in 1990 stating that the marriage was a fraud, and he has tried to fight deportation for years.

Musleh released a statement on Tuesday, saying her husband was given no warning or opportunity to say goodbye to his four daughters. 

"Al, who had been willing to voluntarily depart two weeks ago, is now behind bars in county jail for an undetermined period of time. ICE officials could not explain what change of circumstances brought about this cruel and humiliating gesture," she said. "Al posed no flight risk, reported to each and every immigration meeting and had no criminal record."