Carol Marin: Schakowsky joins fight for Michigan man hounded by DHS

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Michigan restaurant owner Ibrahim Parlak. Carol Marin photo.

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“Enough already! Enough! We handle hundreds and hundreds of refugee and asylum cases and never have I seen a case like this.”

The declaration comes from U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, who joins a bipartisan chorus of public officials and private citizens who are both baffled and outraged by the conduct of the Department of Homeland Security and its inexplicably relentless pursuit of one man.

The man is Ibrahim Parlak.


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It may be that Schakowsky’s recent intervention coupled with the tireless efforts of U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, and retired Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, helped lift some of the onerous restrictions on Ibrahim at his Nov. 3 meeting with immigration authorities.

But another day of reckoning looms on Christmas Eve when his deferral of deportation expires.

I’ve written about Ibrahim off and on for 11 years now.


Because while I support the war on terror, not when our government makes terrible mistakes in its name that it refuses to correct.

Ibrahim is such a case.

At 53, he is a well-respected restaurateur in the little vacation town of Harbert, Michigan, just across the Indiana border.

A Kurd, he was imprisoned and tortured in Turkey for being a separatist. The U.S. granted him asylum in the early 1990s at a time when we were less dependent on Turkey than we are now.

It was 9-11 that changed everything. That includes our government’s view of Ibrahim, who for a decade had been nothing but a taxpaying, charitable, law-abiding citizen and father to a young daughter named Livia who was born here.

Suddenly, he was reclassified as a terrorist and locked up for nearly a year. It was only through the extraordinary efforts of friends, the volunteer services of lawyers, and the courage of a few in Congress that he was let go. The terrorism charges were ultimately dropped.

But his life has been a living hell nonetheless.

“What do they want from him?” asks Schakowsky. “His parents died but he couldn’t travel to them. He is stateless. And Livia’s grandmother came to me because [Livia] is being stopped in airports.”

Last year, Ibrahim’s 17-year-old daughter was a senior at La Lumiere High School in LaPorte, Indiana — the alma mater of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — traveling through London on a class trip. At the airport immigration officials separated her from her classmates to search her and go through her luggage.

“Livia started crying,” said Ibrahim.

Immigration did the same at O’Hare two weeks later, he said, as she traveled to visit colleges in California with her mother. Her mother wasn’t searched.

“We should add up the tax dollars spent going after this good man,” said Schakowsky.

Schakowsky has met with aides to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. And she intends to “convey to the president that this should end. I’m just not going to give up.”

Governments, like people, make mistakes.

It’s admitting them that speak to our better angels.

And to the high ideals of a great country.

Free Ibrahim.


Follow Carol Marin on Twitter: @CarolMarin

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