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Monday editorial: Honor asylum granted to Michigan restaurant owner

U.S. House Rep. Fred Upton (left), R-Michigan, supports Ibrahim Parlak in his fight with the Department of Homeland Security to remain in the U.S. File photo by Don Campbell, The Herald-Palladium via AP.

Once and for all, the U.S. government should stop hounding Ibrahim Parlak, a Michigan resident who was granted asylum in the U.S. in 1991, only to have the rug pulled out from him years later by federal authorities.

U.S. House Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, and other members of Congress have backed Parlak in his fight to stay in this country. Former Sun-Times journalists Carol Marin and the late Roger Ebert also took up Parlak’s cause. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that Jeff Tweedy of the Chicago rock band Wilco will perform a solo benefit concert for Parlak on Feb. 26 in Three Oaks, Michigan.

Parlak is fortunate to have influential people on his side, but they are rallying because the cause is just. In granting him asylum years ago, the U.S. promised to protect him. Our government is reneging on that pledge.

An immigration appeals board is reviewing the case as Parlak enters the final month of a 90-day extension granted in December by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Let him stay.

This country gave him refuge, a second chance to build an honest life after it was determined Parlak, a Turkish Kurd, had suffered through torture and wrongful imprisonment in Turkey for supporting a separatist movement. Parlak made the most of that chance and became a small business owner in the town of Harbert, Michigan. He runs a popular Middle Eastern restaurant.

Why rob him of a decent, law-abiding life?

Years after granting asylum, American officials agreed with Turkey’s claims that Parlak was involved in terrorist activity during his time in the separatist movement. Because of that, Parlak spent 10 months in prison in 2004-2005 in Michigan until a judge freed him. Parlak has denied the allegations.

While initially it seemed Turkey didn’t want him back — that country revoked his citizenship some 14 years ago — officials there may be changing their minds. Parlak’s lawyer has a copy of a letter sent just days ago from Turkey’s consul general based in Chicago to Upton, pushing for Parlak’s deportation and extradition.

What would await him if he is deported? Parlak’s lawyer, Bob Carpenter, says he has consulted with experts from Amnesty International and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, among others, who say they would fear for Parlak if he is sent back.

There is still time to right this wrong.