It’s Not Political. The System Is Broken And We Can Do Better.

Last night we learned that the op-ed below, which we had been encouraged to submit by the Youngstown Vindicator regarding Mr. Adi’s case, would not be published. The Vindicator, as Twitter before it, has tried to silence our Campaign. They won’t succeed because I know we can do better.

Clearly, Mr. Amer Al Adi Othman has been a friend and asset to Youngstown. The local press has diligently covered his story, his impact and the vast number of friends and supporters he has. In an unclear and complex process like this, it is easy and understandable for emotions to obscure facts. As a candidate for congress challenging Tim Ryan, I thought it would be helpful to share another perspective and highlight certain issues.

To begin with, this is not a conversation about DACA, DREAMers, border security or sanctuary cities. This conversation is about a man’s life and his future. I know the value of a Green Card. Just last year I happened to be in colleague’s office minutes after she received her Green Card. She was crying. A lawyer from South America, she came to the United States on a student visa, put herself though law school, and then while working 18 hours a day would send money home to care for 20+ people in her extended family. At that moment I realized what I take for granted everyday was something she had worked her life for.

Over the last month, I have become increasingly upset that Congressman Tim Ryan has turned Mr. Adi’s cause—really his life—into a game of political football with daily insults hurled at the President, the Republican members of Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division. The immigration system needs to be fixed, but the problems central to Mr. Adi’s case would not have been addressed by any of the commonly-proposed solutions to the immigration mess we have inherited. Passing a DACA bill, or even a full amnesty bill tomorrow morning would almost certainly have no effect on Mr. Adi. Mr. Adi’s true struggle is not his immigration status, but the law that governs how federal agencies make decisions and the legitimacy of his first marriage.

Neither political party alone has brought us to this point. Based on his first marriage, Mr. Adi’s original I-130 Petition for Alien Relative or “Green Card” was filed for and approved during the Reagan administration. After some time, his removal proceedings began in 1998—during the Clinton administration. Mr. Adi’s appeal of ICE’s finding was heard by a District Court Judge appointed by President Clinton, who spent time during her career engaged in civil rights defense. Mr. Adi’s appeal was challenged by President Obama’s Justice Department and then heard by a panel of three Circuit Court Judges (one appointed by President Clinton), all of whom agreed with the District Court. This is to say, Mr. Adi’s case is personally devastating and a sure sign of the opacity of government bureaucracy, but not something that can be hoisted on to one political party.

ICE’s decision to deny Mr. Adi’s petition was based on a US law passed during the Truman administration and amended unanimously during the Regan administration that says no petition for a Green Card shall be approved if the applicant has ever entered into marriage for the purpose of evading the immigration laws. Since the Appeal Court’s 2012 ruling, Tim Ryan’s plan – starting in 2013 – has been to introduce legislation (a “private bill”) every year that, if passed, would grant Mr. Adi legal status. But, instead of working to pass this private bill, Mr. Ryan has relied on an administrative quirk whereby the Department of Homeland Security did not deport subjects of pending legislation—a quirk that held true even if the legislation in question was a private bill not actively being considered for a vote.

A fact that has been brought to my attention is the treatment of Mr. Adi. While I fully support the mission and the efforts of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security I cannot condone some of the recent behavior of the Department. These employees do not make the law, but are tasked with being the public embodiment of its enforcement. They protect and keep order at our borders, confront life and death decisions daily and are used as political fodder far too often. I acknowledge the large burden we place upon them and the constant indecision from Washington on what their mission should be. In saying this, I ask that these men and women always treat those they interact with—citizen and alien alike—with dignity and the utmost respect. The confusing and seemingly contradictory behavior of Tim Ryan and the Department has added undue insult to an already difficult situation.

Mr. Adi seems to be an amazing man: he and his wife raised a family of four daughters, were among the first to gamble by building a business in a developing downtown Youngstown, and have fought tirelessly against ICE’s decision. The hundreds that have turned out in Mr. Adi’s defense are testament to the life he has led and the lives he has touched. Surely, I hope that things will work the best for the Mr. Adi and his family—I hope that tangible evidence of Mr. Adi’s first marriage can be presented. I also wish my opponent had focused more on legislating and less on sound bites. Then, maybe things would have been different.

Politicians shouldn’t try to score political points with people’s lives. We should ask more and we deserve more from our public officials. Together, we can do better.

-Chris DePizzo, Candidate for Ohio’s 13th District