By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
HARBERT — Ibrahim Parlak knows he now has at least two more high-profile supporters.
The Harbert restauranteur received word last Friday that U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both of Michigan, submitted letters to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in support of reopening Parlak’s case.
The motion of support urged the Immigration Review Board to reopen Parlak’s case as he seeks relief under the Convention Against Torture – an international law that permits refugees from being returned under threat of torture or death. In both letters, the two Senate members asked for Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials for Parlak’s plea for asylum to be heard with new evidence of the rising threats to the Kurdish people in Turkey.
“In the interest of ensuring Mr. Parlak’s motion and the changing circumstances of his case receive all due consideration, it is my hope ICE will extend Mr. Parlak’s Deferred Action while his motion remains pending,” Peters said in his letter.
Martin Dzuris, a New Buffalo resident and longtime supporter of Parlak, said the two letters will increase Parlak’s chances of seeking a more permanent solution.
“It can only help. The more congressional support there is, the more likely something positive will be done,” Dzuris said. “We know that a lot of representatives and senators have contacted the DHS because of inquiries from their constituents. DHS is no longer publicly commenting to the press, but we did find out they are responding to inquiries from politicians and they are getting very negative feedback.”
This comes after U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, sent a two-page letter last month to DHS and ICE officials in support of the motion to reopen their case against Parlak.
Parlak has gained plenty of support in Southwest Michigan in recent years, especially from Upton – who has previously introduced legislation to grant him permanent residency.
However, neither Peters or Stabenow have shown interest in sponsoring the private legislation Parlak needs from the Senate to stay untouched from DHS.
Dzuris explained the lack of a private bill from the two Michigan Senators has nothing to do with Parlak himself.
“It’s a blanket policy, so they don’t want any private bills under any circumstances,” Dzuris said. “That’s not unusual because they are rarely introduced. In fact, the letter of support validates that the senators not submitting a private bill has nothing to do with Ibrahim. They don’t do it because it would open the flood gates where everyone would want a private bill on their behalf.”
In Stabenow’s letter, she noted how Parlak is considering a move to Chicago to be closer to his daughter.
“Ibrahim has expressed an interest in moving to Chicago where his daughter is attending college,” Stabenow’s letter read. “Given the needs of his family, I ask for your consideration of his interest in changing his order of supervision and jurisdiction of his case from the Detroit to Chicago field office.”
The move would benefit Parlak in two ways.
On the occasion when the DHS Detroit office calls him in for a check up, Parlak is forced to drive more than three hours to get there. If he was able to relocate to Chicago, it would make more sense to drive what is considered less than an hour from home.
The other benefit comes from Parlak’s interactions with the Detroit office. While looking into Parlak’s case last month, Upton said the main effort to deport the native of Turkey seemed to be coming from Detroit.
Dzuris said Parlak has considered moving to Chicago since his daughter started college last year, but would remain tied to his Harbert restaurant, Cafe Gulistan.
“It’s something that is being explored,” Dzuris said. “It would also be a friendlier office. Because the Chicago office hasn’t dealt with his case yet, maybe they would have a different outlook.”
On Saturday, Cafe Gulistan hosted an impromtu fundraiser for toward Parlak’s legal fees. Dzuris said they raised more than $3,500 in donations and food sold.
“Besides DHS fighting this, everything has been going pretty well,” he said. “The restaurant was packed Saturday with people who were helping out with his defense and legal bills, which are mounting. It’s really encouraging to see all the help and support he is getting.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 2, 2016)