Ibrahim Parlak is a Kurd who was born in a small farming village in southeast Turkey in 1962. As a minority ethnic and religious group, Kurds have historically been subjected to vicious discrimination, oppression and violence by the Turks. As a high school student, Ibrahim was imprisoned for three months in a military prison in Turkey for participating in humanitarian activities designed to help his people. After his release, he left Turkey to continue his education in Germany.
Seven years later, he became involved with the Kurdish separatist movement, known as the PKK. He re-entered Turkey and wound up in a PKK firefight with Turkish soldiers in which two Turks were killed. Ibrahim was later captured by the Turks. He was tortured and threatened in heinous ways. After he revealed the location of a hidden cache of PKK weapons, he was released, but he was now seen as an enemy by both the Turkish government and the PKK.
Ibrahim then managed to escape Turkey and enter the United States in 1991. He applied for and was granted asylum in Chicago. Ibrahim became a model immigrant. He settled in a small town in southwestern Michigan, opened a highly successful restaurant, married, became a much-respected member of his community, had an American-born daughter (who is now in college), and applied for naturalization in 1998. As Ibrahim has observed, America provided him "with the opportunity to become someone." America is a place where "if you live by the rules and work hard, ... dreams can come true."
It is a heart-warming story.
Not quite. The events of 9/11 changed everything. Because the United States had designated the PKK a terrorist organization in 1997 -- six years after Ibrahim had come to the United States -- the Bush administration denied his naturalization petition and initiated deportation proceedings against him. In 2004, he was imprisoned without jail, awaiting deportation. His friends and neighbors rallied to his support by the hundreds, and after ten months in prison a federal judge declared his detention unconstitutional.
The Bush administration, though, continued to press for deportation, and although the Obama administration has at times hesitated, the government's campaign to throw Ibrahim out of our nation continues to this day. With the fervent support of his many friends and admirers -- I proudly include myself among them -- Ibrahim has continued to fight against what another federal judge has described as "a sad remnant of an era of paranoid, overzealous, error-riddled and misguided anti-terrorism and immigration enforcement that has now gone by the wayside."
Sadly, Ibrahim is now at the end of his rope. Despite the efforts of federal officials like former Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), former U.S. Attorney John Smietanka, and former FBI counter-intelligence and terrorism lawyer Anne Buckleitner, all of whom have been dedicated supports of Ibrahim's cause, the Department of Homeland Security has now ordered Ibrahim to apply for residency to some other country.
In the name of decency and human rights, it is time to bring this absurd and, indeed, unjust campaign of persecution to an end. It is time for President Obama to issue a presidential pardon to Ibrahim, and let this good and decent man who has lived a peaceful and lovely life in our nation for more than twenty years live, finally, in peace.