Ibrahim Parlak, a Kurdish immigrant, center, toasts his family, friends and supporters in 2005 as they celebrate his release from jail at his restaurant in Harbert, Mich. (AP Photo/Shawano Cleary)

Editorial: Before leaving, Mr. President, give Ibrahim a break

SHARE Editorial: Before leaving, Mr. President, give Ibrahim a break
SHARE Editorial: Before leaving, Mr. President, give Ibrahim a break

Follow @csteditorialsAfter 26 years, Ibrahim Parlak deserves a break. Here’s hoping the Obama administration gives him one before heading out the door.

Parlak, who runs a popular restaurant in Michigan’s Harbor Country, was granted asylum in the United States in 1991 after coming here from Turkey. He’s widely seen as a decent man and model member of the community. Over the years, he has drawn champions such as John Smietanka, former U.S. attorney for Western Michigan, former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin and the late Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert.

At first, the United States viewed Parlak as a refugee fleeing a repressive regime that had tortured and wrongfully imprisoned him. But in the wake of 9/11 — long after Parlak arrived here — the United States changed its mind about the Kurdish separatists in Turkey, with whom Parlak had sided. The United States re-labeled the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a terrorist organization. In an Alice-in-Wonderland twist, Parlak was retroactively accused of not disclosing ties to a terrorist organization. He spent 10 months behind bars.


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Since then, Parlak has been caught up in an endless cycle of hearings, red tape and threats that he could be returned to Turkey, where he might be executed, particularly in light of Turkey’s recent turn away from democratic traditions. He must constantly report to U.S. immigration authorities, his travel in our country is restricted, he has difficulty getting banks to process his business’ transactions and he cannot travel outside the country. There’s no reason to put Parlak through all of that any longer.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson should put Parlak on a path to permanent residency by granting a waiver that would allow Parlak’s daughter to petition for a change in his status when she turns 21 next year. U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., favor that approach.

President Barack Obama could grant a pardon, as has been suggested by Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago law school. But Obama will not intervene in a case that is before a Cabinet secretary.

On a separate track, the United States Board of Immigration has allowed Parlak to take his case before immigration judge, a legal maneuver that keeps him from being deported for now. The case has been moved from Detroit to Chicago, and a status hearing will be held this spring.

But why put him through more unnecessary rigmarole? Clear this case up now.

Send letters to the editor to letters@suntimes.com.

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