By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
HARBERT — It’s been a constant litigious battle for Ibrahim Parlak the last few years.
Late Monday, Parlak received word that the Board of Immigration granted his motion to reopen his case for asylum under the Convention Against Torture.
The Harbert restaurateur has been waiting for the board’s decision since March when he was given a one-year extension on his deferral of deportation from the Department of Homeland Security.
Parlak, who owns Cafe Gulistan in Harbert, had filed a motion with the board to see if he could remain in the country under the Convention Against Torture – an international law that protects refugees from being returned under threat of torture or death.
The board agreed with Parlak’s argument that conditions in Turkey have changed significantly to merit another look at the dangers he potentially faces.
“After all those years and just hearing news like this is exciting. I’m relieved for me and my family,” Parlak said Tuesday. “We will now let the judicial system follow its course to see what’s next. I’m thankful. Whatever the result is, we will live by it.”
Robert Carpenter, Parlak’s attorney, said the case will be sent to immigration court in Detroit for a hearing on the merits of Parlak’s claim and his fear of returning to Turkey.
“We will need to show it is more likely he will face torture or inhumane treatment if he were returned to Turkey,” Carpenter said. “It’s quite rare for a case like this to be reopened. Country conditions don’t change because the political landscape normally doesn’t just change overnight.”
Carpenter said the date for the hearing, which will be held at the Executive Office of Immigration Review, has not been set. Parlak is set to return to the same immigration court where a hearing for him took place in 2004.
“What’s most important is the ruling renders the finality of his removal order,” Carpenter said. “He’s protected from being removed from the United States until the case is reheard.”
A long wait
In February, Parlak received a government brief arguing against his motion to reopen his case for further examination. The government argued Turkey hasn’t changed much in the 11 years since Parlak’s previous request was first considered and denied.
Parlak’s legal defense provided three expert opinions to the board on the condition of Turkey. Carpenter said the failed coup attempt in July was cited as well.
The Turkey native came to the U.S. in 1991. In his asylum application, he disclosed that while associated with a Turkish separatist organization in the late 1980s – called the Kurdistan Workers Party – he had been involved in an armed skirmish at the Turkish border and had been imprisoned in Turkey.
In 1992, the Immigration and Naturalization Service determined Parlak had a credible fear of returning to Turkey, and granted him asylum.
DHS later stepped in and said Parlak did not disclose he was arrested in another country in his application for permanent U.S. residency. They labeled him a potential terrorist and began efforts to deport him, setting off a more than decade-long public drama over his plight.
Through the years, Parlak’s lawyers have insisted that his 1991 application for asylum set forth in great detail his past association with the PKK and maintain he has been a model immigrant and business owner for years.
Parlak has gained support in Southwest Michigan from U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, who has introduced legislation to grant him permanent residency, to Michigan U.S. senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters – who sent in letters of support.