Ibrahim Parlak is a 53-year-old Kurd who was born in Turkey. In 1991, he came to the U.S. as a refugee and was granted political asylum. He spoke no English. Parlak started working as a busboy at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago, then as a restaurant line cook. A few years later, he moved to Michigan, where his American girlfriend had roots.
Ibrahim got a job in a local restaurant as a cook, took some cooking classes, became a line chef, then became manager of a restaurant. In 1994, he leased a restaurant and renovated it. His rebranded restaurant opened in 1995, and, though he didn’t have adequate funding to purchase it outright, three local business people were so impressed with Ibrahim’s dedication that they conspired to craft a deal that allowed the once penniless, language-challenged refugee to join the ranks of business owners.
Still, things were so tight that Ibrahim had to live in the back office of the small restaurant for many months. Thus, Ibrahim Parlak became an above-average taxpayer and an employer of American taxpayers.
Yet, after 24 years here, U.S. authorities are poised to deport Ibrahim Parlak back to Turkey with all due speed – where he will almost certainly be killed.
Largely because he was unfortunate enough to get caught up in a bureaucracy that was sufficiently slow-moving to see a government (ours) that sympathized with the plight of Kurds in the Middle East under Islamic rule change into a government that celebrates the persecution of Islam’s enemies worldwide. The Kurds have given Islamist despots a run for their money for centuries. In fact, they’re even holding their own in northern Iraq against Barack Hussein Obama’s mercenary army, ISIS.
Ibrahim Parlak was issued a green card in 1992 and applied for U.S. citizenship. He passed the test for citizenship, and was waiting for a date to get sworn in.
So what happened?
Well, in 1988, Parlak was returning to Turkey (clandestinely, since he was an anti-government activist) with a group that was in the company of the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (PKK) a Kurdish left-wing militant organization based in Turkey and Kurdistan. The PKK was essentially smuggling Parlak and the others into Turkey.
As the group was crossing the border from Syria into Turkey, there was a firefight during which two Turkish border guards were killed. Though he was not involved in the killings and was not a member of the PKK, Parlak was later convicted by a Turkish military court of separatism. He spent almost two years in prison, during which he was tortured. After his release, he escaped Turkey for America.
Fast-forward: It seems that just prior to Ibrahim Parlak’s swearing-in as a citizen, some dutiful and shockingly effective party at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) realized that the PKK had been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1997. Though he had never been directly associated with the PKK, Parlak’s citizenship was suddenly put on hold.
Here’s where the story becomes really appalling and the actions of our government truly reprehensible.
Parlak was approached by the FBI, which attempted to pressure him into going back to the Middle East to spy for the United States. Parlak had rejected violence and militancy as a means of ameliorating the oppression of the Kurdish people. He told the FBI that he was in danger from the PKK, the Turkish government and its supporters, and that going back would be a death sentence, but he did tell them that he was willing to help in any way he could pertaining to intelligence gathering.
Parlak was arrested and deportation hearings were started against him. He spent 10 months in an American jail until friends got him released through a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. It was now 2004.
Ibrahim Parlak has lived in the same small community in Michigan since 1992. He has a 19-year-old daughter born here to an American mother. He has been a model immigrant and would be a model citizen by now if the government did not have its head lodged in its lower bowel.
As his business grew, Parlak hired more employees and started to build an addition to his restaurant. It was during this time that he was incarcerated for 10 months. During his time in jail, the community and Ibrahim’s friends got together and finished the whole addition to his restaurant. He was released from jail to the finished remodel. This obviously illustrates how much his community cares for him.
One of Ibrahim Parlak’s closest supporters informed me that he had personally read all the documents and briefs our government employed against him, and they essentially have no case. Ibrahim has a great deal of local support, and over the years, such luminaries as former Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., author Alex Kotlowitz, and Chicago journalists Carol Marin and the late Roger Ebert have gone to bat for him.
Back in 1997, the American press was far more receptive to Ibrahim Parlak’s story than now. ABC’s “Nightline” television news show, the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Associated Press, National Public Radio and innumerable other media outlets covered Ibrahim’s story then. It also made the international news.
“Over time, I have heard countless stories from people about how Ibrahim has helped them,” said Martin Dzuris, a minister and Parlak spokesman. “Ibrahim is the poster child for the American Dream: Come here, work hard, become an American, become part of the community. …
“He is a person America should embrace, not deport,” said Dzuris, a naturalized citizen himself. “He hasn’t broken any laws here.”
In their efforts to set the stage for Parlak’s destruction, the federal government also used bureaucracy and elements of counterintelligence programs, including:
- pressuring financial institutions to stop doing business with him;
- coercing a lender to call in his business loan and mortgage;
- trying to get the state of Michigan to revoke his liquor license;
- monitoring and surveillance of just about everything he does.
Parlak also had to withdraw from his IRA for business operating costs because financial institutions no longer want to handle his money. Ibrahim Parlak still loves America, but he says he now sees two Americas: the one he loves, and the other, the government that keeps going after him.
This week, Parlak’s attorney received “conflicting and disturbing information conveying the intent of certain unnamed individuals within ICE to remove Mr. Parlak from the United States.” Reports indicate that these parties have initiated a plan to do this by working back channels and secretly obtaining travel documents from the Turkish government to facilitate the deportation.
Our government’s actions in this matter amount to no less than a criminal conspiracy.
I am told the headlines in Turkey are now reading “End of the road for PKK terrorist,” and “PPK terrorist to be returned to Turkey.” Parlak is being associated in news articles with current leaders of the military wing of the PKK; they are characterizing him as a big shot in the organization, which will put him in even more danger should this deportation occur.
Like millions of beleaguered non-Muslims in the Middle East whom the Obama administration has hung out to dry, Ibrahim Parlak is being targeted by this administration because he is perceived as an enemy of Islam; he was a politically active Kurd who challenged Muslim preeminence in the Middle East. In a very real way, the administration’s methods are even more craven than their overall policy in that region, because it takes a great deal more effort to vigorously persecute an individual than to ignore the plight of faceless people thousands of miles away.
It is profoundly maddening that our government has transformed from one that used to provide defense and shelter for people like Ibrahim Parlak, to one that persecutes such individuals. It is disgusting that our government does so while surreptitiously sneaking potential jihadis into the U.S. at every possible opportunity and literally ignoring the background of émigrés who later turn out to be terrorists.
For the sake of his family and his community, let’s pray that goodwill, tenacity and Providence intercede to thwart our government’s diabolical plans for Ibrahim Parlak. If anyone has earned their citizenship, it is surely he.
Friends of Ibrahim Facebook Page
DHS hounding of Mich. man is a mistake, Chicago Sun-Times
Parlak has earned his freedom, South Bend Tribune
Michigan restaurant owner is no terrorist, Chicago Sun-Times