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After nearly 4 years away, 'Al' Adi is getting back to work in downtown Youngstown. Here are his plans.

"I have a lot on my plate so I've got to get busy," said Amer 'Al' Adi Othman, who has returned to the city after being deported nearly four years ago.

YOUNGSTOWN — After nearly four years separated from his family and his home in the city, Amer “Al” Adi Othman is back home in Youngstown and is getting back to work.

Adi once again has his sights set on downtown Youngstown. On Saturday he announced his plans for the former Pig Iron Press building his family still owns along North Phelps Street in downtown Youngstown.

"I have a lot on my plate so I've got to get busy," Adi laughed, while speaking to reporters outside the property at 26 N. Phelps St.

Adi said he plans to turn the first floor into a deli, and turn the upper three floors into apartments. He’s also considering establishing a cigar bar, in line with the building’s vintage sign for Frankle Bros. Company’s “well kept” cigars.

Adi said he’s already discussed his plans with city Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and he intends on reaching out this week to potential partners for the cigar bar, he said.

Adi bought the 1,530-square-foot building in 2016 for $56,200, according to Mahoning County auditor records. Its former owner was James Villani, who operated the fine arts publishing house Pig Iron Press.

Adi said the family had plans for the building before his deportation “threw us off.” He also still owns another property along Wick Avenue, he said.

Adi, a longtime city businessman, was unexpectedly deported in 2018, and returned to the city just weeks ago. Prior to his deportation, he lived in the U.S. for 39 years. He owned Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli and Circle Hookah in that same North Phelps block, until the family sold the businesses shortly after his deportation.

On Saturday, well-wishers joined Adi on the street, including one of his former convenience store employees who shouted, “You’re back!” and threw open his arms to embrace the man.

Adi told Mahoning Matters he’s planning a “reunion” for all his downtown Youngstown neighbors.

Adi’s return weeks ago was the first time in nearly four years his whole family was together again, he said, including his wife Fidaa; four daughters Lina, Rania, Haneen and Lana, all aged 22 to 30; and his grandson, 1 ½-year-old Yazan, who was born after Adi’s deportation.

“We’re very happy. We’re really living great moments with family and friends and everybody,” Adi said Saturday. “Really, I want to thank everyone in my bigger family, which is Youngstown, that did a tremendous job, a great job in supporting my case and supporting me. I felt the love all over the world, wherever I went.”

Adi credited his attorney David Leopold of Cleveland, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and Ryan’s adviser Michael Morley with helping him obtain the humanitarian visa that paved the way for his triumphant return. That work started “on day one” after his deportation nearly four years ago, Adi said.

He’s now beginning the process of earning his American citizenship, he said.

“I’m living in Youngstown. I’m not going anywhere. This is my town and I have the right to live in this town,” Adi said.

While Adi was in Jordan, the family spent lots of time on video calls with him, said Adi’s daughter Lina.

After his grandson Yazan was born, Adi made sure to talk to him “every day,” he beamed.

But it wasn’t the same, Lina said. She told Mahoning Matters her father’s absence left an “empty feeling.”

“He was a big part of Youngstown. To not have him here, it kind of felt like he was the missing piece,” she said. “All of us went on to work and do things that we were supposed to do, but it didn’t feel the same without him being here.

“All of us are very close with our dad.”

Adi was unexpectedly arrested and jailed in 2018 during what was supposed to be a routine immigration status hearing, The Vindicator reported that year. Adi’s first wife, whom he married in 1980, told authorities the marriage was fraudulent, which put his immigrant status in jeopardy. In 2007, the woman recanted that statement, claiming it was made under duress, the newspaper reported.

While detained at Youngstown’s Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, Adi went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment by immigration officials.

He was deported to his native Jordan later that month.

Ryan at the time advocated for a stay of Adi's deportation. Congress requested Adi's case be reviewed, but ICE ignored the appeal.

When speaking Saturday about his lost years, Adi choked back tears.

“The idea of breaking up a family and taking any member of the family forcefully … is horrible. Our background, our culture, our way of thinking — we’re family people,” the Palestinian man said Saturday, his voice quavering with emotion.

“We put family first.”

Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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